Pictured above: Shemesh Camp Director Megan Rich, left, and Youth Coordinator Ali Gates are excited that the Valley of the Sun JCC’s Shemesh Camps have received accreditation from the American Camp Association.
In October 2017, Shemesh Summer Day Camp at the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center received accreditation from the American Camp Association. ACA accreditation means that Shemesh Camp at The J submitted to a thorough review of its operations, from staff qualifications and training to emergency management, and that it has complied with the highest standards in the industry.
“We had been prepping for a few years,” explains Megan Rich, director of Shemesh Camp at The J. “I thought it was really important that parents feel that everything we are doing is to a certain standard, above and beyond local regulations.”
In the fall of 2016, the staff at Shemesh started to examine their practices and procedures and submitted the paperwork to begin the process towards accreditation. In May 2017, the first ACA “visitor” (volunteer representative who is in the camping industry and has received special training) came to The J to meet with Megan and go over the standards and ACA guidelines that are required for accreditation.
Then in July last year, the ACA sent two visitors to observe summer camp in action and to review all the paperwork to assure camp practices conformed with the submitted paperwork. “They were here for five to six hours reviewing everything from making sure that we had batteries in the smoke detectors to our procedures on taking kids on field trips,” says Megan. “It’s a very involved process, and then you don’t know officially that you’ve passed until October.”
Camp Shemesh did receive the accreditation for three years, at which point they will need to seek re-accreditation. “In the in-between years you fill out something online to show that you are following their procedures, and every three years they come and do the same process again,” explains Megan.
For Megan, to be ACA accredited is worth the work. She has been working at camps, in one capacity or another, for more than 15 years; after receiving her law degree, she had decided that kind of work wasn’t for her. “Camps can have policies and procedures of their own, but by being ACA accredited, it shows that we follow the highest standards across the country,” she says.
In addition to their standards for the health and safety of the campers, ACA also requires staff-to-camper ratios that are lower than most states mandate and that goals for camp activities must be developmentally based.
“Parents will know that the well being of their child has been thought about throughout,” says Megan. “From safety to training, programming, the facility – it’s really that the parent can drop their child off and know that everything they can think of has been taken care of – and is the top standard in the business at the same time.”
Every camp program The J offers, including Chaverim, Ruach, CIT, sports, arts and more is under the umbrella of Shemesh, so all camps are ACA accredited.
“It was a lot of work but the motivating factor was that we knew the outcome was going to be something that parents are proud to send their child to camp and confident to send their child to camp for the first time as well,” says Megan.
Shemesh Camps at The J offer a year-round camp program with 10 full weeks of summer camp, School’s Out Days and holiday camps. For more information and to register, call 480-634-4949 or visit vosjcc.org/shemeshcamps.
Why an ACA-Accredited Camp?
American Camp Association Accreditation (acacamps.org) means that your child’s camp cares enough to undergo a thorough (up to 300 standards) peer review of its operation – from staff qualifications and training to emergency management. American Camp Association collaborates with experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross and other youth-serving agencies to assure that current practices at your child’s camp reflect the most up-to-date, research-based standards in camp operation. Camps and ACA form a partnership that promotes growth and fun in an environment committed to safety.