Sam Busis with his parents; courtesy of Camp Ramah
Sam Busis has many responsibilities as a teacher’s assistant at the preschool at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. He makes sure the children play safely in the classroom and out on the playground, sets up the room for nap time and passes out snack. He also packs up the lunches, pins notes on backpacks and does many other jobs.
“The teachers notice a big difference on Tuesdays when I’m not there,” Sam said proudly.
Sam, 30, gained many of his childcare skills through the vocational education program at Camp Ramah in New England in Palmer, Massachusetts. Four Ramah camps—California, Canada, New England and Wisconsin—run vocational education (“voc ed”) programs for campers who have aged out of the camps’ Tikvah programs for campers with disabilities. Vocational education programs are being piloted in several other Ramah camps as well. Each summer, approximately 60 young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 participate in these programs, with some working as paid and unpaid staff at camp, and others employed in businesses in neighboring towns.
At Camp Ramah in New England, Sam works in the gan (childcare center for staff members’ children), while some voc ed participants operate the six-room Greenberg Guest House, the only motel in the country run exclusively by young people with disabilities, and others work in the camp’s mailroom, bakery, or supply room.
Josh Klein, 28, of Minneapolis, feels his experience in the Atzmayim vocational program at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin in Conover, Wisconsin, was essential to his landing his job at Lunds & Byerlys, an upscale supermarket in the Twin Cities. While in Atzmayim, Josh worked for two summers as a bagger at Trig’s grocery store in Eagle River, Wisconsin. A letter of recommendation from Trig’s helped him get a position working as a bagger and in parcel pick-up at Lunds & Byerlys. He held this position for seven years before being promoted last October to cashier.
“At camp I learned how to coexist with others, and I use those skills every day,” Josh said.
Sam, who has a second job working one day a week as a catering assistant at a Philadelphia-area law firm, agreed that camp prepared him well for his work.
“I learned how to talk to kids so that they’ll listen to me and to calm situations. I improved my work skills in the vocational education program,” Sam said.