Stacey Langsner and Ashleigh Eakin grew up in different parts of Fairfax County. But one place that they have had in common since their childhood is Lake Accotink Park in Springfield.
Langsner, of Annandale, and Eakin, of Mount Vernon, spent time at the park, located off Greeley Boulevard, year-round as youngsters, and have returned since completing high school to work at the park during the summer. The two are in the middle of their second summer as co-directors of the summer camp program at Accotink.
"It's not your typical sit-in-the-office (job). You're helping children, you're a part of their lives," said Eakin, a rising senior at George Mason University.
Both were hired as counselors the summer after they completed high school in 2002. Langsner, who grew up in North Springfield, said she spent time as a child canoeing on the lake, and her parents picked up a flier advertising counselor positions.
"I loved going to camp when I was little, so why not work at one?" she said.
Eakin said she considered working at Accotink for only one summer, then taking a position as a counselor for a program which would involve her traveling with children across the country.
"I just had a ball with the kids. I was happy where I was, and felt no need to leave this place," she said.
After two years as counselor, both felt the desire to move on. Last summer, they were hired as co-directors of summer camps.
"I've come to know them as adults, and I trust them very much. They've not only done a wonderful job with the camps here, but they're community-minded young women," said Tawny Hammond, manager of Lake Accotink Park. "I'm thoroughly impressed with their leadership, their initiative, and their conscientiousness. I'm very proud of them."
MOVING UP to directors meant the two, who have since become good friends when they're not at work, would be seeing a lot more of each other. They found their work styles were complementary.
"We click so well together. Her strengths are my weaknesses and vice versa," said Langsner.
As directors of the camp, the two are responsible for every aspect of the summer programs at Accotink, from hiring and scheduling the staff of full-time counselors, to overseeing the many camps Accotink offers. This summer, those camps include an Outdoor Adventure Camp, which offers boating, hiking, and orienteering; Junior Stewardship Camp; Doggone Fun Camp, an opportunity for campers to attend with their dogs; and Tennis Camp. Camps began in late June, and will continue into mid-August.
Serving as director also has other, less appealing requirements.
"Sometimes I'm the bad guy, because when kids are sent to the office, they're sent to me," said Eakin. "I used to be a counselor and everyone loved me, so that's not a fun part of the job."
Although neither intends to enter an outdoor-related field, they say their time at Accotink has broadened their world, and confirmed their career choices. Langsner, a psychology major, wants to pursue a career as a clinical psychologist working with children.
"This job has sort of clarified that for me," she said. "I wasn't really sure coming in, but working with the kids here has helped me see that is probably my future."
Hammond said she hoped the two would stay for one more summer on staff at Accotink before moving on with their lives.
"One of the things that's important to us is developing leadership," said Hammond. "We hire 14, 15, 16 year olds with the idea of mentoring and grooming them and keeping them through their college years. I know people are chomping at the bit when they graduate (college) to start their 'real life.' We've done some really good things together."
Eakin intends to pursue a career in business and said she hopes the experiences her campers have at Accotink helps to broaden them.
"We do unique things not many camps offer, canoeing, paddleboat, archery, stream-monitoring," she said. "It creates an awareness of nature. They get a better respect for nature."