Two Bridesburg teenagers, Peter Frankunas and Emily Peck, earlier this month were crowned two of the city Department of Parks and Recreation’s 2021 Outstanding Youth Workers.
“They are excellent counselors and role models,” said Bridesburg Recreation Center Director John McBride. According to McBride, there are roughly 1,400 youth workers eligible for the award. About 900 of them applied, and Frankunas and Peck were two of only 20 throughout the city who won.
“I was shocked,” said Peck, who cried a little when she found out she won. “It feels deserving but it was very unexpected.”
Frankunas said it “felt good” to receive the award.
“It felt good to see that hard work pay off,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting it.”
Both Frankunas and Peck are camp counselors at the Bridesburg Rec’s summer camp. They both started out as campers themselves. Peck was 5 when she started. Frankunas doesn’t remember his exact age, but said he was “little.”
“I don’t even remember how old,” he said.
Eventually, both Frankunas and Peck went on to become volunteers at the camp, and eventually paid staff members. They both became counselors at age 13. Currently, Frankunas is 15 and Peck is 16.
The kids Frankunas and Peck engage with are between the ages of 5 and 11, although Frankunas typically sticks to the younger end of the age range.
“I learned a lot interacting with the [younger] kids,” he said. “It’s like being a teacher. You have to understand what the kids are trying to say. They need a lot of attention.”
Each day with the kids is different, according to Frankunas and Peck. Oftentimes, the day will be split between outdoor activities like sports and indoor activities like arts and crafts.
“Or we do science experiments and small cooking experiments with them,” said Peck. “For instance, one of our weeks was fall themed. And so one day we would do a craft that had to do with s’mores. We would cut out paper and glue things together and then that Thursday would be the cooking day and we’d make s’mores.”
“We then take them in for a craft so they’re not always in the heat all day,” said Frankunas.
The themed weeks were common at the Bridesburg Recreation Center Summer Camp.
“One Wednesday we went to the zoo and the week revolved around that trip,” said Frankunas. “The kids made animal-shaped pancakes and made paper cows by painting on plates.”
Both Frankunas and Peck have activities and hobbies they’re involved with outside of school and camp.
Peck likes to paint, draw and dance. She’s learning how to play the ukulele and will be in the National Honor Society this upcoming school year. She’s a student at Philadelphia Academy Charter High School in the Northeast. She’s done some dancing in school plays.
“Sometimes I would do some singing parts,” she said.
Frankunas’s main activity is swimming. He swims on the Bridesburg Recreation Center’s swim team, which means that he spends his summer weekdays working as a camp counselor from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., then heads back to the rec center at 4 p.m. for swim team practice until 5 p.m. Then from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. he’d volunteer with the little kids’ swim team.
“Some days I would walk home and eat something and then come back for swim,” he told the Star, nonchalantly.
Frankunas also likes to play with his dog, a Jack Russell/pug mix, and play video games.
“I do it for the kids,” Frankunas said when asked why he enjoys being a counselor. “It’s always putting a smile on their face in the morning, then they go home all excited. Parents say, ‘My kid was so excited to go to bed so they can wake up and go to camp the next day.’ ”
Peck likes the idea of having something to do in the summer instead of just sitting at home.
“Doing all the different activities makes it interesting and just knowing you’re getting paid is a side thing because it’s fun coming here anyway,” she said. “We all get along with our coworkers and we all have grown up together because we’ve all gone to the camp together. It’s always been a fun experience.”