Your CIT Summer: From Boy to (Kooch) Man


By Cleveland Smith

Having been a member of the Kooch-i-ching community for the past 15 years, I have come to appreciate the CIT year as the defining summer in a Kooch man’s life.

If adulthood is characterized by the responsibility one takes for himself and others, then it’s safe to say that during a CIT’s summer at camp, he transitions from boy to man. With the help of my fellow staff members, it has been my pleasure to facilitate this process.

I have worked with counselors-in-training since my first summer at Kooch-i-ching in 2004, taking on a more direct role in their instruction as Prep unit head in 2006 and as CIT training coordinator in 2014.


Since that first summer, I have witnessed CITs undergo the subtle shift in mindset from “I will do my share of the work” to “I will teach others to have fun while working.”

CITs are no longer participating and joining—they are leading and facilitating. They are living the Law of the Woods and helping their campers learn it, and live it, themselves—guiding them toward a happy and successful summer.

It is my privilege to witness 17-year-old young men mentally and emotionally process truly difficult situations, such as the consuming reality of an 8-year-old’s homesickness. I get to be part of their discussions around how to empathize with their campers and problem-solve in these situations. It’s even more fun remembering these 17-year- olds as 8-year-olds themselves; it adds an interesting layer to our discussions.

One of the biggest misconceptions about a CIT’s summer is that it is distinct from his previous summers as a camper. In reality, it is the culmination of the Kooch-i-ching experience. If it is during a camper’s Prep and Junior years that the seeds of his growth are planted, then it is during his CIT summer that we begin to see fruit.


So, if you are a CIT, what should you expect from your culminating summer? It’s simplest, perhaps, to think of your CIT summer as an opportunity to attain and refine the hard skills and soft skills necessary to become a counselor.

Hard skills are observable, measurable and usually physical. Can you start a fire—with wet wood? Can you rig a tarp—in the wind? Can you make a PB&J sandwich -- in a moving canoe? It is during your final session in the Senior Camp, on a rigorous trip with other strong and competent young men, that you hone these hard skills. At the end of this time, you will not only feel comfortable doing them, but also teaching them.

Soft skills are grounded in empathy. Often, they are difficult to teach and difficult to learn, but critical to being a good counselor and a good human being. Can you be patient? Can you resolve a conflict—between two people half your age? Can you inspire others to follow you to the end of the portage trail—in the rain?

While serving as a CIT with one of the younger age divisions for four weeks, you will learn these skills quickly. Each day, you will meet with me and your fellow CITs to discuss your experience with your campers, learn some new skills and gain perspective. We will think deliberately and laugh often. In the end, we will all walk away knowing more and being more.

This article was originally published in the Spring 2019 issue of the Kooch-i-ching Tumpline.

Kooch, StaffBen Woods