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Gate Hill Day Camp: The Inside Scoop

Are you considering summer camp for your kids?
Our KidKlass editor got the chance to hear from Josh Male, Owner and Director of Gate Hill Day Camp. He shared about what makes Gate Hill special, why their Red Cross swim program is so beneficial, and how to make sure that your kids get the most out of Gate Hill’s many programs. (It’s never too early to sign up.)

Q: What is the most important job as a director of a kids camp?
A: As a Camp Director, after safety, my most important job is to promote and protect Gate Hill’s culture and values. At Gate Hill our staff and campers strive to act is in line with our 4 values that help describe the community we have created and the people we aspire to be. These are values like “Always Improving” that challenge us to improve our facilities, staff training, or services for parents, and for campers to try new activities and skills to grow a little bit every day.
Q: What differentiates Red Cross swim “learn to swim” program from others?
A: Gate Hill uses the Red Cross swim program as the backbone of our teaching method. Its tried and tested and is recognized nationally as the gold standard of logical skill progression for learners and is backed by ongoing research. At Gate Hill we support this curriculum framework in lots of ways, from extremely small class sizes (2-4 per instructor in many cases), lots of space to learn in our 4 pools, to a culture of celebrating steady achievement, and keeping families part of the fun with progress updates and rewards for campers. When campers succeed past the Red Cross program Gate Hill takes over, with advanced and exciting programs that refine speed and stamina, and teach new water skills like kayaking, snorkeling and more.
Q: Why do you think successful swimming is important for kids?
A: Swimming is a crucial life skill. Aside from the safety benefits it also opens up a whole new avenue of amazing water activities and social experiences as you grow up. We recognize that every parent wants their children to feel safe and empowered in the water. Camp is just a phenomenal place for children to learn to swim and be supported in a really individualized, positive way, and Gate Hill takes every advantage of that to build confident life long swimmers in a program without compromise.
Q: From your experience, what advice would you give to new camp goers?
A: There are so many wonderful camp experiences available for families, The most important factor is finding a program that is a good fit to partner with you for the success of your child. I always recommend taking an in person tour to meet the Camp Directors and ask them about their program and culture. That will also give you a great opportunity to see their facility and understand the infrastructure that supports their program. During tour season you can’t meet all the staff or sample the salad bar or appreciate their commitment to communication, but a well maintained facility down to the details is a great indicator of how much care is taken of individual campers, and ultimately how your child will feel about their new summer home.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: In the past few years I have been lucky enough to enjoy my own children joining me at camp for the summer. My wife Alison and I are now a Gate Hill camp family too! Its been an exciting (and occasionally eye opening!) experience to see how they embrace the joy of camp, make new friends, and develop their own interests. In all the years I have worked at Gate Hill I have been part of thousands of breakthrough development moments for our campers, whether that meant the courage to jump off the diving board, trying new foods, or being a leader for their friends. When I see how Gate Hill nurtures these moments in my own children it doubles my resolve to bring that feeling of pride to every camp family in our community, every single summer.
Q: What makes Gate Hill special?
A: As I previously mentioned, the  Gate Hill family has 4 guiding values. ‘Always Improving”, “Build community through conversation”, “Support the individual” and “Take time to celebrate”. Every aspect of our camp culture can be traced back to one or more of these closely held values. Whats great about that is that our community supports itself so well, whether you’re a camper, Junior Counselor, Division Leader or any other member of of 250+ strong staff you can have a clear sense of how we want to support and celebrate each other through the summer. I’m also lucky enough to be a 2nd generation camp owner and Director, and know that Gate Hill is big enough to support an incredible array of talent and experiences, but not so big we don’t all still feel like family.
Check out Gate Hill’s free Fall Festival, this Saturday, September 24!