July 26, 2023 at 2:34pm

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Elena Ferrarin

Article by Elena Ferrarin

Communications Coordinator
Northbrook Park District


Do you like spending time with kids? Do you enjoy helping them learn new activities? Are you caring and reliable?

If so, hurry up and apply for a position as counselor for the Northbrook Park District’s after-school program, Adventure Campus. You can be eligible for a $1,000 bonus if you apply by August 11.

Adventure Campus includes before-and-after school care and activities for children in kindergarten through 5th grade at five elementary schools: Hickory Point, Shabonee and Wescott in Northbrook; and Willowbrook and Winkelman in Glenview (the latter only offers after-school care this year). The program takes place Monday through Friday during the school year, from late August to early June.

The park district is hiring multiple counselors who can work the after-school program from 2:15 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Applicants who can work from 2:15 to 3:45 p.m. are especially encouraged to apply. Shift ending times at some locations are also flexible. Starting pay is $15 to $20; benefits include a free pool pass, gym membership, golf play and more.

New applicants are eligible for the $1,000 bonus if they commit to working five days per week for the school year. The bonus will be disbursed as follows: $250 in September, $250 in January and $500 in June.

With about 70 counselors plus site supervisors, Adventure Campus follows a balanced, daily schedule with time for homework or quiet play, a snack, projects and physical activity. Once a month, there will be a specialty project —think making sensory slime or a fake volcano — plus enrichment activities like a magician or a bubble show.

The goal is to enrich children’s lives and broaden their horizons while building their self-esteem and encouraging teamwork, Recreation Supervisor Mary Mucci said.

Counselors should be empathetic and have a positive attitude, which benefits the children, Mucci said. “We’re looking for someone who really cares about the kids and cares about the experience they have after school,” she said. “If they see a kid who is lonely or not engaged, we want someone who is going to care enough to ask them what they can do for them, and try to spark their interest in something.”

People of all ages and backgrounds are encouraged to apply; currently, counselors’ ages range from 16 to 87. Applicants don’t need prior experience but should demonstrate a genuine interest in working with children, Mucci said.

College student Patrick Fitzharris, who started working as a counselor in 2019, said he enjoys the variety of activities, from playing outside to helping with homework, or simply sitting on a swing and talking. He’s also loved to see the children grow over the years, he said. “It’s part of the reason I want to become a teacher. You see them progress through the years as they are learning things and figuring out what they really like.”

Counselors are encouraged to introduce their own hobbies and interests to the kids, and the park district can provide all the necessary materials and equipment, Mucci said.

Counselor Bik Kit Tam said she loves teaching children how to knit and make origami, which she learns from watching videos on YouTube. The $1,000 new employee bonus enticed her to apply last year, and it was a great decision, said Tam, who retired from her job as a construction project accountant.

“I look forward to going to work, I like working with the kids. They are so smart, and they engage you in conversation,” she said. “I especially connect with kids who are shy, especially when they first come to the program. I also especially understand the Asian students and their parents.”

Counselors are required to attend a paid three-day training from Aug 15-17. The training features topics including behavior management, games and activities, first aid, safety drills and more. During the school year, there will be monthly all-staff trainings to review topics and prepare for upcoming activities.

Adventure Campus also offers camp programs during school holidays and breaks; those are optional for counselors.

“It’s a nice job: staff do not work past 6 p.m. and do not have to work weekends,” Mucci said. “We really want it to be a great experience for the kids and for the counselors.”

Generally, start and end times for shifts are flexible, but the park district prefers a commitment of a minimum of three hours per shift, three days a week. Working for Adventure Campus also can lead to other employment opportunities within the park district, Mucci said.

For more information about the before and after school program, visit nbparks.org/adventurecampus. To apply online, visit nbparks.co/adventure.