By Kynan Witters Hicks
“Your turn, Kynan!” called Lach, the head wrangler at the A/U Ranches. Gulp. I hadn’t had much riding experience, and I was being asked to guide my horse into a corral with a herd of cattle. We were playing a game where two people on horseback were supposed to direct one cow through a narrow gate while preventing the rest of the heard from entering. As the game started, I strained to remember the commands to direct my horse amid the chaos around me. “Turn right,” called my partner. “Open your reins. No, the other direction. That’s right!” Time was running out and we couldn’t seem to isolate the cow. “There, cut her off there! That’s it!” With just seconds left, the cow slipped through the gate.
I joined the cattle working program that afternoon to observe one of the 20 counselors in training (CITs) I was responsible for training and shepherding through the summer. A CIT is a first-time counselor who is learning the various skills required to be a professional outdoor guide, mentor and role model for campers. I didn’t know if I’d get to participate in that afternoon’s activity, but it turned out that I experienced first-hand how the CIT in the cattle working program – my partner – would have guided a camper through this complex cattle game.
One of the reasons I loved being a CIT trainer was because it had measurable purpose. Most of the CITs that summer were starting their first job. Many of them, even though they were very familiar with camp from years spent as a camper, were unfamiliar with a professional working environment. We’d work on developing skills like taking initiative, teamwork, conflict resolution and role modeling. Throughout the summer, I watched as CITs transformed from active observers of their fellow counselors to confident leaders.
Furthermore, the CIT trainer position richly rewards those who squirm at the thought of sitting at a desk all week. Almost every day is spent participating in a different outdoor activity – from mountain biking, to hiking a fourteener (a mountain that is at least 14,000 feet high), to rafting down the Arkansas River, to cantering on a horse. In each of these activities, A/U Ranches staff get the opportunity to put Christian Science into practice. I have always found that camp is an environment where my relationship to God is deepened, and I learn more about how prayer and healing work. While I spent most of my days in programs observing my coworkers in action, I relished the opportunity to see spirituality expressed in each interaction and activity.
I look back fondly on my summer as a CIT trainer because it was a fulfilling and exhilarating experience. But I quickly learned that the position was also a résumé booster. There are not many other early-career jobs that require you to develop a training program for and manage 20 other employees. Some of my recent employers have recognized the managerial experience I gained during that summer and have commended me for the leadership skills that I express. While there were many opportunities for me to practice leadership skills in Adventure Unlimited’s programs, such as participating in DiscoveryBound’s National Leadership Council or working as a program head at the A/U Ranches, being the CIT trainer challenged me to be a better manager and mentor.
Working at the A/U Ranches develops critical life skills employers value. Click here to learn more about job opportunities.