Jen Whitman-Middle School Teacher-Coniston: 2003-2015

How old were you when you started Camp?

I was 12 when I first came to camp!

How were you introduced to Coniston?

My friend at school introduced me!

Did you attend college, and if so, what did you study?

For college, I went to Boston University and majored in mass communication and minored in psychology and education. For graduate school, I went to Wheelock College and got my masters in integrated elementary and special education.

What is your current job? 

I currently work at Kennedy Middle School in Natick, MA. I teach 6th grade English and social studies. I also coach track!

How has your career journey evolved?
 

I always knew that I wanted to work with kids and that there was a chance that I would become a teacher, but when I started college, I was planning on becoming a camp director. After college, I realized that teacher would be a better fit for me so that I could work directly with kids every day and I went back to school for my masters. I taught 5th grade English and social studies before moving up to 6th grade this year! But who knows, there’s still time for me to become a camp director one day!

Did Coniston influence your ability to create this journey?

 
Of course – in so many ways! At Coniston I got to work with so many amazing and talented people who inspired me to be better for my campers everyday. I learned to work as part of a team and that leading by example is the best way to lead. Most importantly, my campers helped me realize that I needed to do a job that involved working directly with kids because I was happiest when I was with them. I would not be as strong of a teacher today without camp.
 
Are there any skills or traits you gained at Coniston that you use in your professional life?
 
Definitely! Leading Adventure Camp and taking the WCITs out west taught me about responsibility, organization, planning, and so much more. I had to make sure that everyone had food to eat, had everything they needed, was safe, and was having a good time. It was hard work! I use the skills I built on those trips every day at school!

My experience working at camp has had a huge impact on my teaching style. I try to infuse my classroom environment and my lessons with the joy and support of camp. I put relationships first, both mine with my students and my students’ with each other, because once there is that close bond of trust, the serious learning and growing can start.
 
Are there any specific memories from your time at Coniston that are still impactful to you?
 
I will never forget the first Adventure Camp trip I lead! The only camping I had done before that trip was my cabin overnights. It poured for 2-3 days straight right when we left. We were soaked, our tents were soaked, and it was impossible to start a fire to cook anything to warm us up. I had to figure out how to solve all of our problems and make the most of our situation. By the end of our trip, because of everything we went through, our group became so close and it was hard for us to say goodbye to each other. Whenever anything challenging comes my way, I think of that trip, and I know I can handle anything!

Talia Ungarelli-Zookeeper, Gorilla and Carnivore Keeper/Trainer-Coniston: 2008-2020

How old were you when you started Camp?

I was 8 when I first came to Coniston.

How were you introduced to Coniston?

My family introduced me to Camp!

Did you attend college, and if so, what did you study?

I attended the University of Vermont and studied Animal Science with a focus on wildlife health and conservation.

What is your current job? 

I currently work for the Gladys Porter Zoo, as a Zookeeper – Gorilla and Carnivore Keeper/Trainer.

How has your career journey evolved?
 

I had the intentions of becoming a wildlife veterinarian but after an internship within a veterinary practice I discovered I wanted my approach to animal health to be preventative with a stronger focus on conservation. I was given the opportunity to explore and work in different zoo facilities through college classes and an internship program at ZooTampa at Lowery Park. Those experiences provided me with a strong foundation to enter my current job as a full zookeeper and trainer at the Gladys Porter Zoo.

Did Coniston influence your ability to create this journey?

 
Coniston most definitely influenced my ability to create this journey. Through being a camper and staff member, I was able to become not only a strong leader but play a supportive role in whatever group I found myself in. With these foundational skills I was able to work hard and prove myself as a valuable asset to the various teams I’ve worked on. Being a part of the Coniston summer staff I was able to set goals for myself to work towards on an individual level and I find myself still setting goals for myself throughout all of my endeavors.
 
Are there any specific memories from your time at Coniston that are still impactful to you?
 
Any and all of the moments that as a group or as an individual we were told to take a moment of pause and look around us. These moments were so special to me as a camper because I remember being filled with so much gratitude for being a part of a space so safe and accepting where I could grow as an individual. I appreciated these moments even more when I was able to share them with my campers. I believe these moments are still impactful because I find myself needing to pause and really take in the moment. In the hustle of the day, or in the middle of a difficult project at work it is easy to forget how lucky I am to be in a career doing what I love and forming relationships with endangered species.

Ben Mark-Director of Field Sales at Panorama Education-Coniston: 1999-2012

How old were you when you started Camp?

I was 12 when I started at Coniston. I went to Coniston from 1999-2002 as a camper, was a CIT in 2003, was a counselor from 2004-2008 and then came back in 2010 as a West Coast CIT Director, and for 2 weeks in 2012 as a West Coast CIT Trip Leader.

How were you introduced to Coniston?

My friend’s mom called my mom in the spring of 1999 and asked if I wanted to go to Coniston with him. I had gone to another overnight camp for two previous years, but the camp shutdown after the summer of 1998. My mom convinced me to try Coniston and the rest is history!

Did you attend college, and if so, what did you study?

I attended Denison University in Ohio and studied History and Communications.

What is your current job? 

I am the Director of Field Sales at Panorama Education.

What does your organization do? 

Panorama’s mission is to radically improve education for every student. We do that by ensuring that district leaders, school leaders, teachers and counselors have access to actionable data to support positive outcomes for students. School districts work with Panorama to better understand students’ social-emotional learning, student academic performance, school climate, family engagement and/or teacher/staff well-being. My team works to partner with the largest school districts and state departments across the country to broaden and deepen Panorama’s impact. 40 of the 100 largest school districts in the country currently use Panorama in their schools, which means they run Panorama surveys, look at results on Panorama’s interactive reporting platform and/or manage student interventions on Panorama’s intervention management platform called Student Success.

How has your career journey evolved?
 

I began my career as a teacher with Teach for America. After two years of teaching middle and high school students in Philadelphia, I spent the next five years bouncing around other student-facing roles. I worked at a mentoring non-profit and at two charter schools in the Boston area as a career coach and again as a high school teacher. Student-facing work was incredibly meaningful, but I often found myself exhausted and unsure as to whether I wanted a career in teaching or counseling. Going to Panorama and working in sales was a huge leap of faith. I figured it would keep me close enough to education given the company’s mission but would allow me to lean into more of my strengths and to enjoy more of a work-life balance. Six years later and I’m still at Panorama. We’ve grown from 40 to nearly 400 employees and I’ve gone from a sales rep to a sales manager to the director of my team. I can’t wait to see how Panorama and I grow into the future!

Have you met any Coniston connections on your career journey?
 

Wild enough, yes! I was the only Conistonian at Panorama when I joined. I’m now one of six. Alison Rowe, Francesca Grandonico and Jesse Larson all work on the sales team with me. Lauren Hickey works on our Client Experience team, and Elizabeth Good works on our People Team. Sometimes Panorama feels like one big program area!

Are there any skills or traits you gained at Coniston that you use in your professional life?
 

Camp taught me how to be creative, to show compassion for others and that a little kindness goes a long way. I try to bring creativity, compassion, and kindness to each day of work.

Are there any specific memories from your time at Coniston that are still impactful to you?
 

As a camper, a rainy day in 2001 sticks out. We were stuck inside our cabin when our counselor, Matt Bagley, told us to throw on rain gear and follow him. We went to the A Field and played whiffle ball in the pouring rain and had the best time. I learned that day that as a leader you should bring enthusiasm and joy to as many moments as you can, because others will follow you.

As a WCIT Director I remember a conversation with my co-director, Caitlin Elgert and our trip leader Rachel Foley. I wasn’t very outdoorsy – my greatest survival skill was finding us the nearest gas station. And so I was very self-deprecating about that. They pulled me aside and told me to be more confident in my abilities and that I was meant to be leading our CITs and that our CITs should know that, too. I think about that a lot as a leader of a team now. Even if my role sometimes feels too big for me, I lead with as much confidence in my abilities as I can. I learned that from Caitlin and Rachel.

Austin Turner-Account Executive at Ecodaptive-Coniston: 2002-2018

How old were you when you started Camp?

Age 8!

How were you introduced to Coniston?

My Dad worked there.

Did you attend college, and if so, what did you study?

Briefly. I studied Vessel Operations and Technology at Maine Maritime Academy, only for a semester.

What is your current job? 

I currently work as an Account Executive at Ecodaptive. 

How has your career journey evolved?
 
I’ve worked numerous jobs from bartender, landscaper, music venue manager, tugboat deckhand, solar panel sales rep, and almost anything else you can think of. Wouldn’t have done it any other way.
 
Did Coniston influence your ability to create this journey?
 
Coniston gave me the ability and confidence to continuously meet new people and build relationships that ultimately lead to a variety of opportunities.
 
Are there any skills or traits you gained at Coniston that you use in your professional life?
 
Empathy. Being aware and understanding what others may be feeling or thinking is a life skill that I find valuable everyday.
 
Are there any specific memories from your time at Coniston that are still impactful to you?
 
Ben Kamizar would not let us eat Chaco Tacos for dessert at lunch one day because he was allergic to peanuts. To this day…I’ve still never experienced a Chaco Taco.

Evan Ruderman-Outdoor Photographer-Coniston: 2005-2017

How old were you when you started Camp?

I started going to camp as early as possible at 8!

How were you introduced to Coniston?

We had some family friends (the Gesens) who were involved with Coniston and had kids who went to camp. Because of them, my older brother started going to camp and I would always go with my parents to drop him off and pick him up. I loved everything about camp itself and everything my brother told me about it, so my parents signed me up to go as soon as I was old enough.

Did you attend college, and if so, what did you study?

I did – I attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I studied Communications with a focus in Environmental Communication. I graduated in the Spring of 2019.

What is your current job? 

I currently work as a freelance outdoor photographer and as a photo assistant to acclaimed photographer Chris Burkard.

How has your career journey evolved?
 
Oh man, it’s been quite the journey! I moved to California to work as an intern for Chris Burkard – it was a part time position that was set to last for four months. I couldn’t get enough, so I asked to stick around for a second internship and from there got hired on full time to work at his studio. When I started working as an intern I had little experience in the photo industry but was excited to learn anything and everything that I could. I started working on smaller assignments and as I learned more I began working on bigger shoots with bigger clients and deliverables. After a little while I began working with Chris on photo shoots around the world and haven’t stopped since! Today I continue to work on shoots with Chris but have also gained the confidence to work independently.
 
Did Coniston influence your ability to create this journey?
 
Absolutely. I still think of Coniston as one of the most formative parts of my childhood and don’t think I’d be where I am today without it. Overall I think seeing and being a part of the magic that is Coniston helped show me that I could carve my own path as I got older. I was exposed to so many people from so many different places and backgrounds all of whom had different interests and skills. This showed me that there is no “traditional” path that needs to be followed and it also allowed me to try so many different things as I grew up.
 
Are there any skills or traits you gained at Coniston that you use in your professional life?
 
Most definitely. I think that above all camp taught me how to work with people and build meaningful relationships. This was at the core of both being a camper and on staff and today is equally important in my professional life. I think being able to connect well with anyone and everyone is an incredibly important skill and I attribute my ability to do this to all my years at camp. I also took my very first photo class at camp!

 
Are there any specific memories from your time at Coniston that are still impactful to you?
 
There are too many to recount. One thing that sticks out to me as I reflect on my time at camp are the amazing counselors I had and looked up to throughout my time at camp. It’s been 15+ years but I can still recount every cabin counselor I had dating all the way back to my first one in B2 at eight years old. I looked up to these guys so much and I think they had a large impact on who I was and wanted to become. I also absolutely loved overnights and I think they’re a big reason for why I love the outdoors so much and have pursued a career that revolves around the outdoors. There was one specific overnight at Penny Royal that I will never forget – the stars were the brightest I had ever seen and it made me want to spend many more nights sleeping under the stars.

Sara Noble-RN in Pediatrics-Coniston: 2005-2021

How old were you when you started Camp?

10

How were you introduced to Coniston?

My mom went to Coniston! 

Did you attend college, and if so, what did you study?

Saint Michael’s College – Biochemistry. MGH Institute of Health Professions – Nursing, Family Nurse Practitioner track.

What is your current job? 

I am now working as an RN in pediatrics.

How has your career journey evolved?
 
My first job out of undergrad was working as a Camp and Non-profit management associate at Coniston. I then went on to work as a Mental Health Specialist on a Child and Adolescent Inpatient Psychiatry unit before starting nursing school at MGH.
 
Did Coniston influence your ability to create this journey?
 
Absolutely! Coniston has been such a large part of my development as a human being. At camp, we have the opportunity to learn about so many different interests and careers through the people that we meet. In fact, I would credit a conversation with Sue Strebel as sealing the deal for my choice to pursue nursing.
 
Are there any skills or traits you gained at Coniston that you use in your professional life?
 
I firmly believe that everyone could benefit from living in a cabin in the woods for two weeks with strangers. At Camp, you learn and teach interpersonal skills starting on day one by simply being together. I learned how to navigate difficult conversations, celebrate each other’s wins, and advocate for myself and others.
 
Are there any specific memories from your time at Coniston that are still impactful to you?
 
Where do I even start? I think the best part of being a part of a place where people grow up is getting to witness it. Knowing that you played even the smallest role in someone’s positive experience is what it’s all about and keeps the magic of Camp alive for generations to come.

Chloe Parker-Deputy Manager of a Children’s Home-Coniston Staff: 2014

How old were you when you came to Camp and what was your job role?

I worked at Coniston in 2014 (best summer ever!) when I was 22, and my role was Drama and Coniston Singers Director.

Why did you choose to work at Coniston?

My parents met whilst working at a Summer Camp and it is something they always said I should do. So I googled lots of Camps in America and set my sights on Coniston, I emailed them and was lucky enough to be offered a job.  

Did you attend college, and if so, what did you study?

I attended The Hammond School of Dance in Chester, England. I studied Musical Theatre whilst I was there. I had graduated college the year before I worked at Camp Coniston. 

What is your current job? 

I am currently a Deputy Manager of a residential children’s home. I look after children with complex behavioural needs. The aim of my work is keep the young people I work with as integrated with their families as possible. This can include reunifying them back into their family homes, or stepping them down into foster placements.  There are many different reasons which would lead to young people coming to my home. It could be a family breakdown, which leads to relationships breaking down. It could be that a young person has become involved in external circumstances such as gangs or drugs and they may need to be moved away from those causing harm. It may be that a child or young person has been abused, or a parent is victim to abuse or mental health issues.   

How has your career journey evolved?
 
I trained in Musical Theatre and have alway been heavily involved in the arts. However I have always wanted to work with Young People. I spent 5 years teaching dance whilst I was training and then worked at Coniston. It was whilst I was there that I decided to pursue working with children and young people full time. When I returned to England I gained a job working as a Residential Care Worker at a Children’s home. I then worked as a behavioural teaching assistant along side this. I also trained in Drama Therapy and I am now a Deputy Manager of a Children’s home. 
 
Are there any skills or traits you gained at Coniston that you use in your professional life?
 
Coniston has had a huge part to play in my career journey. Working there taught me to think on my feet, to push myself and opened my eyes to new ways of working with children and young people. Coniston gave me confidence, taught me empathy and gave me incredible working experience. I use the skills I learnt during my summer at Coniston every day in both my personal and professional life. 

Jodie Halls-Health Care Assistant-Coniston Staff: 2017

How old were you when you came to Camp and what was your job role?
I was 23 years-old and I came to Camp to work as one of the Drama Directors.

Why did you choose to work at Coniston?
I graduated from university and I wanted to travel to America to experience what it was like to work at camp for the summer. When Camp Coniston got in contact with me about a job opportunity, I was thrilled, I did my research and Camp Coniston really stood out to be a wonderful place. 

Did you attend college, and if so, what did you study?
Yes, university. I studied Musical Theatre.

What is your current job? 
Health Care Assistant.

How has the pandemic affected your job?

The Pandemic affected our normal way of working. We were introduced to wearing masks daily and having to social distance during the pandemic. Fearing that we could catch the virus at work and bring it home to our own families. The residents’ families were not allowed to visit their loved ones, which was very hard and especially on days such as Christmas day/birthdays etc. We did everything we could to make sure residents were in contact, through technology and facetime. I work with residents who suffer from dementia, the pandemic meant that days out and entertainment in the home were cancelled which is what brings them joy. 

The team worked so hard together during the pandemic, we had staff members taking on extra shifts because of staff shortages due to having to isolate. Staff were mixing jobs and all helping out with housekeeping, gardening, activities, and staff being bus drivers to pick the staff up from home so we wouldn’t have to get public transport.
 
How has your career journey evolved?
Since University and Camp, I decided to take a new career path. Originally, I was starting my own business as a performer, singing at weddings and parties etc. During this time, my Grandad got ill and I had to help my Nan care for him. This lead me on to the path of wanting to become a carer. 
 
I used to sing around the care homes in London and it made me want to ask about jobs.
 
I am now a full time care worker. I work with war veterans and their families/partners. I also sing at the home I work at for the residents, which has brought joy to the home during the pandemic.
 
My future plans are to progress in my job and become a Nurse. 
 

Are there any skills or traits you gained at Coniston that you use in your professional life?
Camp Coniston gave me skills which I have taken and use in my daily life. Coniston gave me confidence and the most important thing, believing in yourself. 

Are there any specific memories from your time at Coniston that are still impactful to you?

My time at Coniston is such a wonderful memory for me that I will never forget. Coniston is a place where you can be yourself and this is the reason why I loved it. Coniston was a place where your worries disappeared. 

A few memories that will stick with me: When we first arrived, the staff were so lovely. Being an international staff member I felt very welcome and we went on a week of trips to bond with out team members. The ice cream social, what a wild time. A whole lot of fun, laughter and dancing. The fireworks at the end of the session, just wow, emotional and beautiful!! Women empowering other women to be strong. And FINALLY… CHIPWICHES!

Career Development Program

As part of our college and career development counseling initiative, current staff members received special opportunities during the summer to meet with our alumni and parent communities all while learning about the process of college applications.

This summer, high school aged LITs (Leaders in Training) had the opportunity to attend a Common Application / College Admissions workshop and older staff members were provided with a Resume Writing workshop, all offered by Jennifer Tockman of Colby-Sawyer College.

If you are are willing to speak to younger staff about the college search process, please reach out to jesse@coniston.org.

Meghan Salvas Ship—K-5 Math Instructional Coach—Coniston: 1990-2004

How old were you when you started Camp?
I was 9 years old, 1990.

How were you introduced to Camp?
A family friend told my parents about Coniston and we were signed up to go together. At the last minute, they switched sessions and I ended up going alone that first year.

Did you attend college, and if so, what did you study?
Assumption University-Liberal Arts/English (2003)
Northeastern University—Masters in the Arts of Teaching: Elementary Education (2006)

What is your current job? 
I currently work at Milton Academy in Milton, MA as the K-5 Math Instructional Coach.

How has your career journey evolved?
Interestingly enough, my first job after graduating from college was at a YMCA as an Aquatics Director. However, I knew I wanted to be a classroom teacher and quickly returned to graduate school to pursue my degree in Elementary Education. I have taught Grades 4 through 6 in Boston, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Massachusetts in both public and private schools. 

Beyond classroom teaching, I have served as a mentor to new teachers, am a certified CFG coach, and have done a great deal of curriculum development work across all content areas. One of my passions is the creation and delivery of professional development for educators, both within the school setting and at conferences across the county. I took advantage of every opportunity I could to serve as a teacher leader, which brought me to my current role as an Instructional Coach, supporting classroom teachers to hone their pedagogical skills, increase student engagement, and deepen their understanding of K-5 mathematics.

Did Coniston influence your ability to create this journey?
Without a doubt. The through-line between being a camp counselor and becoming an educator felt organic, so it is challenging for me to specifically identify how my journey was influenced. However, my experiences at Coniston working with campers of all ages, in a variety of situations, most certainly served as a solid foundation for working with elementary aged students. 

Working as Waterfront Director and LIT Director in my early 20s, provided me the chance to develop my communication and leadership skills. I was working with counselors who were working with campers, which has a direct influence on my current position—working with educators as they work with students.

Are there any skills or traits you gained at Coniston that you use in your professional life?
Growing up, Coniston was my safe place. I built relationships with my counselors and fellow campers that increased my willingness to take risks I wouldn’t have taken otherwise. This had a direct impact on my self-confidence. As educators, we know that in order for children to be successful they must feel safe in their learning environment. In order for that sense of safety to occur, educators must prioritize relationships with their students (and their students’ family) to cultivate a sense of trust. Relationship building is foundational in all aspects of my career. The relationship a student has with their teacher is the most important indicator for student success.

Are there any specific memories from your time at Coniston that are still impactful to you?
Having attended Coniston for 14 years and meeting my husband, we have countless memories that have impacted our lives. But honestly, dropping our daughter, Molly, off this summer (2021) for her first year at Coniston feels the most impactful. We are thrilled to be able to share such an amazing place with her and can only hope it impacts her life the way it has impacted ours. We have truly come full circle.