If you never had to take a test again, why would you put yourself through one if it wasn’t absolutely necessary? Maybe to make sure you really know the material. Or maybe to prove that you are as smart as you think you are. Maybe to demonstrate that you are the best possible you. Every few years at The Heart we put ourselves through a “test” of sorts– accreditation. Though not required, we do it. We want to ensure we are performing the best practices according to the American Camping Association.
This test is an accreditation process. Other camp professionals visit our camp, scoring us on 175 different standards. These standards range from items in the kitchen, the nurse’s station, the cabins, to the activity areas, programming and interactions between staff and campers. It is a very involved process that includes a ton of documentation. But the most important part is the actual visit which takes place one day during camp. I’m not going to lie, it is quite stressful because it really feels like a test or like you’re defending your dissertation. We at The Heart are teacher-pleasers and we like to get good grades, so we aim for a 100%.
Although it is work and can be stressful, we feel it is important to go through the accreditation process because it makes us better. Not all camps seek accreditation simply because of the amount of work it involves. The process forces camps to look at their procedures, facilities, programming, hiring, etc. It ensures they are up to date and following the highest industry standards in every area. We will undoubtedly make some changes as we go through the process to keep current and continue to do the best things possible for our campers and staff. This coming summer will be our next ACA visit and we’re already preparing. I am fully confident that we are going to do amazing because we are amazing and we are going to ace this test.
Editor’s Note: Cristi Lee Ahern is The Heart’s assistant director every summer. She grew up in Wyoming, and began coming to The Heart as a counselor in 1994, and has only missed one summer since (her newlywed year). Cristi holds two bachelor’s degrees from University of Wyoming, and a master’s in special education from Northern Colorado University. She worked with children in residential treatment centers before becoming a teacher at Kerrville’s sixth grade school. She is now Vice Principal at St. Mary’s School in Fredericksburg. She lives in Kerrville, Texas, with husband Rick and their children (Stewart and Heart campers).