Frequently Asked Questions (Junior Counselors)

What is Happy Trails for Kids?  Who does summer camp serve?

Happy Trails for Kids is a non-profit organization that aims to provide stability, self-esteem and a sense of community to children in the California foster care system.  By offering adventurous overnight activities supplemented by year-round reunion events, Happy Trails strives to be a consistent and enriching influence on the lives of a vulnerable and overlooked segment of the youth population.  Happy Trails for Kids Summer Camp serves youth ages 7 and older.


What is the Junior Counselor program?

The Junior Counselor program is an integral part of the LASSO program for older youth. It allows older Happy Trails campers to continue attending camp, while training to become counselors. Once campers are 16 years of age, they cannot attend camp as campers. Instead, they may apply to be Junior Counselors. This is designed to be a transitional position, so that former campers can be ready to lead camp when they reach the age of 18. Junior Counselors support adult staff in running camp. They help set up and lead activities, help with camp store, mentor campers, and perform other duties as assigned. Junior Counselors will only work directly with younger campers.


What is the LASSO program for older youth?

Happy Trails has started a new program for returning campers ages 14 years and older, known as LASSO (Learning Adulthood Skills and Supporting Ourselves). The LASSO program aims to help prepare Happy Trails campers ages 14-17 for life after foster care and the responsibilities of adulthood.   Campers will learn life skills, prepare for college and develop job skills – while continuing to have fun with Happy Trails.


Why should I apply to be a Junior Counselor?

The Junior Counselor Program seeks to provide older youth with opportunities to develop important professional and life skills. Junior Counselors will have to learn and to demonstrate leadership, responsibility and maturity, as well as think on their feet. By just applying, applicants will learn to create their own resume – a skill they will have to use over and over again in applying for jobs. Through the Junior Counselor Program, Happy Trails hopes to help prepare our older youth for the transition into adulthood. Finally, the Junior Counselor program allows former campers to return to camp and see it from a different perspective, while continuing to have fun.  


What camp activities does the Junior Counselor do at camp?

The Junior Counselor program provides Junior Counselors with the opportunity to be counselors-in-training, while also affording them the time to enjoy camp as older campers. In addition to helping with camp activities for younger campers, Junior Counselors will also have time during the week to enjoy new camp activities designed specifically for their age group.  Junior Counselors will be directly supervised by the Junior Counselor Program Assistant, who works closely with the Camp Director. 


Who can apply to be a Junior Camp Counselor?

Applicants must have attended at least 2 previous Happy Trails camp sessions, and must be at least 16 years of age as of the first day of summer camp.


How can I apply for a position with Happy Trails for Kids?

Please complete the Happy Trails for Kids application and submit with a current resume and at least one letter of recommendation.  Assistance will be provided if needed to applicants in crafting a resume.

If selected, candidates must complete an in-person interview.  Junior Counselors must attend all mandatory training sessions.


What is the compensation for the Junior Counselor position?

First year Junior Counselors will receive a certificate for 120 hours of community service. 

Second Year Junior Counselors will receive a $150 stipend for the entire week.


What are the sleeping arrangements?

Campers are separated by age and gender and assigned to cabins. Each cabin has bunk beds, storage closets and indoor bathrooms and showers.  No more than 10 campers are housed with 2 adult Camp Counselors of the same gender. Junior Counselors will be housed together with younger campers and adult Camp Counselors of the same gender. Junior Counselors will not be housed in a separate cabin.


What is the daily schedule like?

The camp schedule is organized to allow campers the maximum amount of time to participate in camp program activities.  Campers typically wake-up at 7 a.m. and are scheduled to have lights out by 9:30 p.m.  During the day campers receive breakfast, lunch, dinner and an evening snack.


What are the meals like at camp?

At Happy Trails we serve nutritious, well-balanced meals that meet the USDA’s meal pattern requirements.  Breakfast is served at 8:00 a.m., lunch at 12:30 p.m. and dinner at 5:30 p.m.  Campers also receive an evening snack at 7:30 p.m.


What if the Junior Counselor has food allergies or special diet needs?

At Happy Trails we can change meals for anyone who has a medical condition or has requested a special diet due to food intolerance or allergies.  Special diet requests must be noted on the Junior Counselor Health History Form that is included in the Happy Trails registration packet. Food preferences can only be accommodated within reasonable requests.


How do Junior Counselors get to camp?

Happy Trails provides roundtrip transportation for Junior Counselors between the camper drop-off location and camp. Junior Counselors must provide their own transportation to the assigned drop-off location. Detailed information about Junior Counselor drop-off and pick-up will be available in Junior Counselor trainings as well as Happy Trails’ Junior Counselor information packet.  Junior Counselors cannot be dropped off or picked up at the camp.


Who are the staff members?

Happy Trails staff members are at least 18 years old and are selected through an application process that requires reference checks and criminal records background checks that comply with State of California law.  All staff members complete extensive training on topics including youth development, behavior and conflict management and emergency procedures. 


What is the camper to staff ratio?

At Happy Trails we maintain a low overall staff-to-camper ratio of approximately 1 adult to every 3 campers. There are no more than 10 campers per cabin with 2 adult counselors and additional support staff at camp during the week.


What do Junior Counselors need to bring to camp?

Happy Trails will send Junior Counselors a packing list once they have been accepted to the position. Sleeping bags will be available only for Junior Counselors who have relocated since last summer’s camp.  Please also carefully review the list of items that Junior Counselors are not allowed to bring to camp.  Happy Trails will not be responsible for any damaged or lost articles.


What happens if a Junior Counselor needs to leave camp due to a medical or behavioral issue?

If a Junior Counselor needs to leave camp due to a medical or behavioral issue, guardians/caretakers are required to arrange for transportation to pick-up Junior Counselors from camp.  Once guardians/caretakers have been contacted by Happy Trails, they must pick up Junior Counselors within six hours.  If pick-up is not arranged and completed within six hours we will call the hotline at the Department of Children and Family Services to pick-up the Junior Counselor.


Can Junior Counselors call home?

Junior Counselors are not allowed to bring cell phones to camp or to make calls home.  Phone calls are only allowed in case of an emergency.  Junior Counselors may receive letters at camp.  Letters can be sent via email, fax or mail – additional information will be available in the confirmation packet.


Can guardians/caretakers visit camp?

For the safety of all campers there are no visitors allowed at Happy Trails.


What should Junior Counselors do if they take medication?

All medication must be checked in with Happy Trails and should not be packed in your camper’s luggage.  Happy Trails will have a nurse on staff all week that will administer all prescribed medication and provide minor first aid.  All medication must be in the original container with the original label listing your camper’s name and doctor’s instructions (including inhalers).  All medication will be kept by the nurse at camp and will be returned at the end of camp.


What happens if there is an emergency at camp?

The nurse on staff at Happy Trails will only provide minor first aid to campers.  If there is a major emergency at camp, such as an illness or injury, guardians/caretakers will be notified immediately and Junior Counselors will be transported to a local hospital.  Please make sure that the emergency contact numbers and health insurance information listed on the registration forms are accurate. Happy Trails staff members are also trained to address other emergencies such as a lost minor or natural disaster.


What happens if Junior Counselors are picked up late from the camp bus?

For late pick-ups from summer camp, if you are:

·       Ten (10) minutes late: We will contact you via phone.

·       Twenty (20) minutes late and we have been unable to reach you via phone: We will call the emergency contacts listed on the Junior Counselor’s application and we will also contact your FFA, if applicable.

·       Thirty (30) minutes late or more, and we have been unable to reach a guardian/caretaker or the emergency contacts: We will call the hotline at the Department of Children and Family Services to pick-up the Junior Counselor.