Staff Frequently Asked Questions | Surprise Lake Camp

Staff Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Surprise Lake Camp such a great place for Staff?  
Although Surprise Lake Camp is a big place with over 475 campers and 270 staff, it still has a cozy feel to it. This is because most of our campers and staff live in small rustic cabins that are spread throughout our large, picturesque site. Instead of being right on top of one another, they each have their own scenic forest setting.

Surprise Lake Camp is renowned for its natural beauty. Nestled in the heart of the Hudson Highlands sixty miles from New York City, we are surrounded by breathtaking scenes of rugged mountains, flower laden fields, and our own private lake. If you enjoy hiking, sunsets, or seeing wildlife, you'll love Surprise Lake Camp.

Where will I live?  
The staff lives either in cabins for only staff or in separate staff rooms within camper cabins. No staff member lives in an open room which they share with children.

Who are the staff and where do they come from?  
Among our staff of 270, there is a high percentage of returning staff who cannot seem to get enough of Surprise Lake Camp. They are a valuable resource for the new staff members we hire every year. Our staff is very diverse -- they are drawn from a variety of different areas across the United States and from abroad. You will work with some really great people who have a wide range of interests and personalities.

Do I get time off?  
We provide more time off than most camps, including one full day a week, most evenings free, and periods off during the day, so that staff can "recharge" their batteries.

What can I do out of camp on my time off?  
We are only sixty miles from New York City, and we provide daily rides to the Cold Spring train station for staff who want to go to the city on their days off. In a little over an hour, you will be in the heart of Manhattan. We also provide a daily van ride for people on their day off to go to a local retail venue. While there, a staff member can eat, shop or even see a movie at the Tenplex. Whether you like exploring a state park, hiking the Appalachian Trail, playing miniature golf, eating out at a restaurant, antiquing in town or a quick ice cream sundae, Surprise Lake Camp is near it all.

What is there to do in camp during my time off?  
For those who prefer staying in camp, a Staff Activity Center is available for day and evening use with recreational facilities, a movie room, internet access, and refreshments. A daily newspaper is always on hand. There are also frequent evening staff programs like barbecues, tournaments, crafts nights, and DJ parties. We recognize that we need to take care of you so you can be at your best when you take care of the campers.

What do you expect from me?  
Being a staff member at Surprise Lake Camp is a big commitment. We expect our staff to give their all to make every camper's experience as positive as it can be. We ask staff members to dedicate themselves to our Staff Standard of Excellence. The Staff Standard of Excellence is woven into the fabric of everything we do at Surprise Lake Camp. It is the code of principles by which we live.

Every job at Surprise Lake is demanding. The counselors and specialists live, eat, sleep, and play with kids all day long for eight full weeks. The support staff help make the daily camp operation run smoothly. Everyone is expected to work hard, have a good attitude, and like and value children.

We believe that the single most important ingredient at camp is the staff. And since we want the very best for our kids, we expect the very best from our staff.

How do I know what my job entails?  
Your success is our success. To help our staff do the best job possible, Surprise Lake Camp provides a job description to every staff member. Our counselors receive a staff routines manual and our kitchen and office staff also receive staff manuals. These manuals are provided when you come to camp, used throughout our eight day orientation, and referred to for the rest of the season.

Is there a staff orientation?  
Yes. Staff orientation takes place eight  days prior to the opening of camp, at which time our camp philosophy is reinforced, along with discussions of routines, goals, and methodology for working with each age group. Instead of relying solely on lectures and demonstrations, our orientation features many hands on experiential sessions in building relationships, establishing mutual confidence and support, and learning and practicing particular skills.

We also have a First Aid course in Responding to Emergencies just prior to orientation that we ask our new counselors to attend. The course would ordinarily cost you $200. It teaches valuable, potentially life saving skills that will benefit you the rest of your life.

What will I get paid?  
Please see our salary scale for a guide. In addition, there are many opportunities to earn extra money at camp.

Is tipping allowed?  
Surprise Lake Camp has a no-tipping policy. This is because the majority of our children come on a scholarship and have limited financial means. We do not want one child to be given preferential treatment because of their ability to tip more than another. Instead, we encourage parents to recognize staff members by making a contribution to our scholarship fund in honor of those individuals.