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Making the magic of camp accessible to youth: Meet Sarah Carlson

Sarah Carlson ‘16 is the camp director for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee’s Camp Whitcomb/Mason. In this Q&A conversation, Carlson shares what she values most about her job and how her educational experience in the Community & Nonprofit Leadership program (now named Community & Organizational Development) prepared her for a meaningful career.

How do you describe your work role?

A woman with light brown hair, wearing a navy blue sweatshirt, smiles at the camera.
Sarah Carlson, Community & Nonprofit Leadership ’16

As camp director, I lead a year-round program team to implement outdoor recreational programming for school groups, a summer day camp and a summer overnight camp. I hire, train and supervise 80 summer staff members and guide them to ensure all youth have a fun, impactful, positive and growth-filled experience. My efforts help ensure that everyone is safe, hydrated and having the best possible time at camp.

How did your college major prepare you for your current role/career?

My undergraduate degree in Community & Nonprofit Leadership (now named Community & Organizational Development) has greatly prepared me to be successful in my role. I use the skills I learned to communicate and work effectively with many different staff members, campers, donors, volunteers and other stakeholders. Because of my education at the School of Human Ecology, I can lead volunteers in various projects and assist in solidifying grants and creating strategic plans for capital projects. My education prepared me with a deep understanding of the nonprofit sector that has helped in all decision making throughout my career.

What is the most exciting or unexpected aspect of your work role?

As camp director, no day is the same, and I never know what type of situations I may have to deal with. I love that I am never bored and can continue to grow as a professional when I have to problem solve to help further the mission of camp and the organization. I can go sing songs, climb the rock wall or jump in the pool with campers whenever office tasks become too mundane!

What do you find most gratifying about your work role?

I help make the magic of camp accessible to youth. We offer so many different types of programs throughout the year, and knowing we are giving youth the opportunity to play outside, learn new skills, gain confidence and problem solve is gratifying. I know my team directly impacts thousands of kids each year—it’s a great feeling, and I will do whatever it takes to ensure camp is the best possible experience.

When do you know you’re making a difference? Is there an example you might share?

When kids get to camp on Monday and are angry or frustrated because they don’t want to be here, but then on Friday they are crying because they don’t want to leave—that’s when I know we’re making a difference. When I see our summer staff handle tough situations, discover their strengths, and have so much fun they can’t wait to sign up for the following summer, I know we are helping make a difference in their lives, too.

Anything you’d like to add?

I truly appreciate the knowledge and connections I made through my time at the School of Human Ecology. That experience allowed me to be successful in my career and helped open doors for opportunities that have helped me grow as a person and a professional.

Sarah Carlson ‘16 is one of more than 16,000 alumni of the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

More than a degree. A difference.
Learn more about the Bachelor of Science in Community & Organizational Development at the School of Human Ecology.