Welcome to We Want Your Job, where we explore the unique careers of women around the world. Today, we’re talking to Kelsey Tullis, 26, who works for a medical nonprofit and gets to go to summer camp every year. Photography by Candice Martin.
Name + Age: Kelsey Tullis, 26 Job Title: Community Relations Coordinator at the Chris Dudley Foundation
Location: Albany, OR
I help plan and put on the Chris Dudley Basketball Camp for youth with type 1 diabetes – the only overnight basketball camp for kids with type 1 in the world! We have campers that come from all over the world, including Turkey, New Zealand, and Canada! Throughout the year, I work with the diabetes community, connecting them with resources that can provide support. We host a 5k/10k awareness run called the Diabuddies Dash and are involved in the JDRF Type 1 Nation on Nike Campus each year during Diabetes Awareness Month.
Where did you work before this job?
I worked at the Gales Creek Camp Foundation – another awesome non-profit that hosts a summer camp for kids with diabetes!
What did you go to school for and where did you get your degree?
I attended George Fox University and I got my degree in Psychology with a minor in Camp Administration.
Do you think it’s necessary to go to school to get the job you have?
I don’t think it’s necessary, but I do think it is incredibly valuable. I learned a lot about the business side of non-profits and camps in college. A lot of those things I probably could have eventually figured out on my own, but going in to this industry with that education gave me a huge head start in that regard.
How did you get started at your current job?
When I was 7 years old, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. When I was 10 years old, I started attending the Chris Dudley Basketball Camp. I immediately fell in love with camp and the unique way that summer camps can serve and support specific communities, like the diabetes community. Camp completely changed my life, and by the time I was 16, I knew that working with camps was what I wanted to do with my career. I spent every summer working as a counselor at CDBC and other diabetes camps. About 2 and a half years ago, there was an opportunity for me to work with the Chris Dudley Foundation and of course, I jumped at it! It’s the best job ever!
Did you have a mentor in school or when you began this job?
Yes! My camp director from CDBC is an amazing mentor and supporter in my life. She is now technically my boss (though she hates when I say that!) and is a part of the best team to work with! She has always been supportive of my goals and dreams. The way she loves and supports our campers and the diabetes community has always been a huge inspiration to me.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Hands down, getting to work with the amazing diabetes community. The people in the diabetes community are strong, resilient, and so much fun! Every kid that I get to work with inspires me and I feel so blessed to have gotten to connect with so many inspirational people!
What’s your least favorite part of your job?
The last day of camp every summer. Our camp is one week long and always goes by too fast! I dread having to say goodbye to all of the people who always become like family throughout the week.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting this career?
Don’t forget to spend time on yourself. I learned the hard way that I can’t give out energy that I don’t have within me. Get enough sleep, take time to yourself, find hobbies outside of your job that will allow you to live a more peaceful and balanced lifestyle! Love yourself so you can love others.
What’s one thing that surprised you in your path to where you are now?
Everyone talks about the “magic” of diabetes camps. I don’t know if I would say I was surprised, but the biggest discovery I made in transitioning from a camper and participant to a staff member, was that the kids are truly the “magic”. People warned me that when I became part of a camp staff and saw behind the scenes, that it wouldn’t seem as whimsical, but I say that as long as the campers show up, the magic of camp isn’t going anywhere. I love seeing a new camper realize that they have just stepped into a new, big camp family. Seeing them go from scared and nervous to feeling accepted and having a sense of belonging is priceless.
What did you think you wanted to be when you grew up?
When I was really young I wanted to be an artist or a writer. When I went into college, I wanted to be a diabetes educator.
What’s your best advice for someone who wants a job like yours?
Take every opportunity to connect with people in your community. Ask questions – you never know it all! Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Volunteer for events and go to events.
What’s your best advice for someone who has no idea what they want to do?
Think outside the box. For a long time, I didn’t consider working for a camp as something I could do as a career. I thought I had to fit in a “label” like a diabetes nurse or educator. When I finally realized that I could make a career out of the one thing I was incredibly passionate about, my path became so much clearer. Don’t think about what you “should” do, think about what you love and go from there.
Do you believe people in your type of position are paid fairly for their work?
The non-profit world is notorious for not being paid a lot. Do I wish I was paid more? Sure. But doesn’t everyone? It’s not about the money for me. I get to live a life where everyday I get to do what I love and that is priceless!
Do you think you will ever want to change careers in the future?
I can’t see wanting to change careers in the future. I would love to continue to grow in the career I am in. I have plans to go back to school and get my Masters Degree in Non-Profit Leadership & Management and hopefully that will give me new ideas and allow me to truly make an impact on my community.
Thanks so much, Kelsey!
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