By Ashley Ryan
The Junior Staff program emerged at Sea Island in the 1960s. While it would come to shape the way families enjoy their time at the resort, it has also served as a stepping stone for those interested in joining the hospitality industry.
Larry Killgallon worked at the resort as a 20-year-old in 1968, when he was one of only three Junior Staff members. Back then, he says that the staffers received a list of new guests that included the names and ages of their children. Killgallon would call up to their room and invite the kids to the Beach Club, where the Junior Staff entertained them with activities such as volleyball, pingpong and evening dances.
Since then, Killgallon’s sons Martin, Adam and Stewart have all been a part of the program. Stewart, who worked as a Junior Staffer during the summer of 2003, says that he loved being active and entertaining the kids. “It was almost like a summer camp for us,” he says.
The program has greatly expanded since then. Daniel Whitford, another former participant, says that Junior Staff now help facilitate a variety of experiences at Sea Island, taking part in everything from tie-dying T-shirts to Kids’ Night Out and the resort’s Camp Cloister day camp, which offers adventures and games for different age groups, as well as exciting educational activities. The Junior Naturalist program also makes learning fun, with hands-on experiences that teach children about the area’s wildlife and the ecosystems. The Junior Staff even create their own lesson plans and activities within some of the kids’ programming. They are also involved in events like bingo, Plantation Suppers, sports competitions and family pool games.
Stewart says that what he remembers most from his time as a Junior Staffer are moments like jumping into the swimming pool dressed as a mermaid or reading the letters families sent to the resort after they had returned home.
The positive impact goes both ways. “Junior Staff serves as a positive role model to these young children,” Whitford says. “They look up to them and aspire to be them.”
According to Stewart, the program has a lasting effect on resort guests of all ages, allowing parents to enjoy a little alone time on their vacation while knowing their children are well taken care of and having a great time.
Being a Junior Staff member is a perfect summer job for college students, especially those who have experience working with children, or students who have an outstanding track record of extracurricular activities. Once Whitford graduated with a degree in hospitality management, which he says his time with the Junior Staff program inspired him to pursue, he returned as the resort’s activities coordinator.
When the program started, the founders surely couldn’t predict just how impactful the Junior Staff would become—both for the children vacationing at Sea Island and for those who worked there.