At Galileo, we often say, “All roads lead to camp” because creating an innovative and fun-filled Galileo experience for our campers is central to everything that we do. We believe that one summer (or even one week!) can profoundly influence their growth, trajectory and overall mindset about the world. This Galileo impact is also true for our Camp Directors, the fearless leaders who are at the center of each buzzing hive of innovation.
During the summer, CDs oversee camp operations, welcome parents, and inspire staff with their joy and leadership. But while they are united in their Galileo experience, the variety of industries and backgrounds that CDs come from is as exciting and as colorful as the tutus and rainbow suspenders that they often wear at camp.
In part one of our three part series, hear from three of our Camp Directors, Sindie Dear, Tom Abruzzo and Marlin Williford, as they share how their past work prepared them for Galileo and how their camp experiences profoundly impacted their professional lives and overall life mindset.
What are some jobs or experiences that you’ve held prior to working with Galileo?
[Sindie] I’ve spent the last nine years with Walt Disney Imagineering as a Senior Dimensional Designer in the Model Shop and helped create many of the rock facades that build the immersive lands we know and love. But most recently, I am a student pilot and have been focusing on earning my private pilot’s license, an endeavor that is both scary and exhilarating.
[Tom] For the past several years I’ve worked as a full time pianist and music director for various theatre companies.
[Marlin] Currently I’m the Dean of Students at Leadership Public Schools, but before that I worked as a Senior Lieutenant for the Richmond Fire Department’s Youth Academy, and one of our main focuses was community service. I was a cadet in the program and helped organize and facilitate community service events and was a Drill Instructor.
What drew you to Galileo?
[Sindie] While working with Disney Imagineering, I had the opportunity to visit Galileo’s Culver City site in 2015. I was immediately struck by the sight of youngsters wielding saws and the sounds of learning to fail without fear. That’s when I first read about the Innovator’s Mindset, and it changed my life! For the first time I was seeing on paper all of the things that I not only wanted for myself, but they were perfectly articulated for the world to see too! Since then, the Innovator’s Mindset has been pasted or taped inside every journal, work ledger or date book I’ve used. I rely on this mindset in many aspects of my life- in how I approach my children, husband, my work as a designer and now in how I approach being a pilot.
What kind of people join the Galileo team?
[Sindie] Galileo draws loving, creative people. Every person I’ve met comes with their own unique perspective, and they all seem to show up with open minds and hearts which in turn invites others to do the same. It’s infectious, and it made me think about the people in my life that could share in this give and take.
[Marlin] I noticed that Galileans come to camp prepared to rock out, but also know that working with kids can be unpredictable, so they’re able to adapt and be resourceful when needed. In addition, staff come in as true collaborators and supporters of each other, which shows an openness to trust and a readiness to grow and learn. For example, I’ve encouraged, and have had summer interns proactively ask, to take over aspects of camp leadership. I’ve seen them lead an opening ceremony or an all camp game with the full support of me and their fellow staff.
How has your past career prepared you to work at Galileo?
[Tom] I always say that musical directing demands 50% musical talent and 50% interpersonal skills. In the theatre world, we are fortunate to work with artists of all ages, backgrounds and ability levels. Whether working on cross-country touring productions or volunteering at a small community theatre, the ability to relate to people with different experiences and backgrounds is crucial, and this experience prepared me for my role as a Camp Director at Galileo. In my first year in the role back in 2017, I was wildly inexperienced in what summer camp was like. I had never been to camp as a kid nor worked there as an adult. But my background in learning how to cultivate authentic and sincere relationships quickly with people from different life experiences helped me tremendously in my ability to be successful at camp with staff, campers, and families.
What makes working at Galileo unique?
[Sindie] This is my first year with Galileo, and I can honestly say that it’s not like any place that I’ve ever worked at before. Every experience is unique: from training sessions with dance party intros to their commitment to professional development. In addition, I have never felt so fully accepted, supported, or encouraged to be myself as I have with Galileo. All of these experiences are filled with the culture and philosophy that Galileo promotes, and I’m still wrapping my head around it honestly – in all the good ways.
What are things you’ve gained from working at Galileo that you bring into your personal and professional life now?
[Marlin] Two things are ingrained in my mind, collaboration and feedback. These were my favorite aspects of camp, and I utilize them daily as they’re a major part of running any awesome program. As the Dean of Students, I constantly work with others to improve our community and seek feedback from them in order to successfully grow together. (And every now and again a camp song is a great way to make high school a little less serious.)
[Tom] I’ve always been pretty good at portraying a confident sense of self, even against an unhealthy level of self-doubt; let’s attribute that to my time on the stage. Through my experience as a Camp Director with Galileo I’ve been able to develop the self-efficacy that changes my inner narrative from “fake it ’til you make it” to one that is centered around both inner strength and a strong sense of humility. In other words, I now can acknowledge when I don’t have the answers and instead, I lean on the team that I’m surrounded by while allowing them to step into leadership and develop their authentic selves too.
[Sindie] The most valuable thing that I’m learning from Galileo is the importance of being myself. Showing up every day, feeling that I am valued, I am seen and that my perspective is unique. This is something that will motivate and inspire me as a mother, leader and as a member of my community for many years to come.