I first joined the Camp Ocean Pines family in 2009. It was the summer after my first year of college and I wanted a fun job that would take me away from the humid East Coast heat and close to the Pacific Ocean. I had always gone away to summer camps as a kid and thought that sounded fun, so I went to my computer and Googled some combination of “summer camp”, “California”, “ocean”, and “fun.” The first result was Camp Ocean Pines… and the rest is history!
Just kidding. I mean, not about the Google thing - that really is how I found this place. But there’s a bit more to my story than that. I came out to camp that first summer as a counselor and had the time of my life. I fell in love with the central coast, with the people who live here, and with this tiny camp overlooking the ocean that was really trying to change kids’ lives. Over the years I kept coming back, working my way up from counselor to program coordinator to assistant director and finally, to program director. I learned a LOT and made some lifelong friends who have challenged me and helped me grow so much as a person (shout out to Doc and Racecar Driver and all of my other camp people - love you guys!)
Eventually, I reached the point where I was starting to think about year-round employment. It just so happened that a position had become available at camp as the director of the outdoor education program, also known as school science camp. Our science camp runs during the school year and brings students to camp for three, four, or five days to experience a mix of traditional camp activities and science/nature instruction. For me, it was the perfect blend of the summer camp fun that I loved so much and my educational background in environmental science and marine conservation. It was also an exciting opportunity to once again be involved in a small program with a lot of potential for growth. After a little bit of soul searching, I jumped in and transitioned from summer camp to science camp.
It’s been about two years now since I took over and our science camp is doing great! We currently have a group of students here from Santa Monica - as I type this, they are up in San Simeon going ocean kayaking and exploring the beach. Next week’s group is from the Soledad area and after that, we’re hosting a Montessori school from Santa Cruz. We work with so many different types of schools, with students from every imaginable background, and custom-design science camp programs that will work for them. (We're always looking for new schools so if you know a teacher or principal who may be interested in bringing their students to camp, please send them our info!) This job is a lot of fun and it’s a lot of hard work but most of all, it is rewarding. We inspire kids to get outside and wonder about the world around them, and that is something that is very near and dear to my heart.
As for my summers, I still have the great privilege of running our summer teen trips and I participate in summer camp when I can so don’t worry, you’ll still see me around :) I am so excited to have a front-row seat as Caleb takes over as summer camp director and I can’t wait to work alongside one of my best friends as we grow our programs and continue to provide a place where kids can connect, explore, and grow - year round!
Kat “Coral” Montgomery
(For more information about our science camp program, visit www.coastalinstitute.org)