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Emily Carey

Everything I need to know I learned from Mini U (& children movies)

Apply to be a Mini U Leader by Feb. 5

January 23, 2018 — 

The day I stop growing and improving at whatever I’m doing is the day there’s no longer a purpose for me to do it. This is one of the countless things I have learned from my many mentors and role models at Mini U Programs.

I always thought working at a summer camp would be a ton of fun; the social aspect of it seemed so cool to me. Getting paid to meet a bunch of new people, hang with kids, and play games? Sign me up. As a 18 year old without a plan for the summer, I stumbled upon a job posting for Mini U Programs.

A naïve Emily thought she was the perfect candidate for the job. Outgoing (occasionally), athletic (somewhat… OK, not really), has (very little) experience, and of course likes kids (this one I knew for sure). Shoo-in, right? To my surprise (and disappointment), I was only offered a substitute position.

“What’s the point in being a sub?,” I thought. But, from my brief impression of Mini U, I knew it was a place I needed to be a part of. So, I accepted.

Little did I know, accepting a substitute position would turn out to be the best decision I would ever make as it paved the way for my years to come.

After a summer of being called in as a sub every so often, I quickly fell in love with Mini U and knew I needed more. The atmosphere was infectious, the people incredible. I came back the following summer and applied to be a Group Leader. I got it and I was elated. I remember my first day of Leader Week, the orientation for new and returning staff, and thinking, “OK, this place is special.” I immediately felt like I was a part of something pretty extraordinary, a feeling that hasn’t gone away. Since that first “real” summer, I’ve had the opportunity to be a hockey coach, and most recently, a support leader working with children with special needs (an experience that’s had an enormous impact on me).

One of my favorite parts of the summer is Leader Week.

I adore sharing what I think is such a magical environment with first year leaders who are just as excited and nervous as I was on my first day. I have a theory: the world would be a much better place if everyone experienced Leader Week. The whole experience is nothing short of electric.

Our job as leaders at Mini U is to foster leadership in children and create an environment accepting and inclusive of all differences and abilities. As a workplace, the coordinators and supervisors do just that. Whether you’re an athlete or an artist, into science or superheroes, or simply just here for a good time (of which there are many), Mini U is a place where everyone is welcomed and everyone is challenged to be the best version of themselves. Here, differences are not only accepted, but they are encouraged and celebrated. You’re a fully functioning adult and want to wear light up shoes? Do it. You want to wear knee-high socks with Disney characters on them? Fire. It. Up.

Through Mini U I have been continuously challenged, received exceptional support, been given limitless opportunities, and built profound relationships I know for a fact will be maintained for the rest of my life. Each day, each week, and each summer has brought me new and unique challenges. With the support of my coordinators, supervisors, and fellow leaders, I have developed the skills and competencies to tackle those challenges head on and come out of them better than I was before.

Mini U has taught me countless things; how to be a ninja, all of the words to multiple children’s movies, how to get 20 five-year-olds completely dressed for hockey in under 30 minutes (a seemingly impossible task, but doable nonetheless), what it means to be part of a team, that high fives and slow claps are cool, that there is always room to grow, and of course most importantly, how to figure out which eye is your dominant eye. Archery tag, anyone?

I can confidently say thanks to Mini U Programs I’m a far better person, student, friend, teammate, and leader than I was when I was 18 just looking for a job. I don’t expect that prosperity to halt any time soon.

Mini U is quite frankly the best part of who I am. Applying to be a leader could very well be the best decision you ever make, just like it was for me.

Apply before Feb. 5 at

Learn more about Emily Carey when she takes over the @umstudent Instagram account on Jan. 24.

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