How Camp Experiences and Relationships Helped Me Transition to a Corporate Setting

Omer MatalonBy: Omer Matalon as told to Ari Derman

After celebrating my Bar Mitzvah in June 1998, I joined the first ever session of “Taste of Tikvah” at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, which laid the foundation for six wonderful summers in the Tikvah Program. During this time I made many lifelong friends from the fellow campers, counselors and Israeli Shlichim that I interacted with. In 2004, I was lucky enough to participate in the new Atzmayim Tikvah Vocational Program, which enables former campers to learn independent living skills and get vocational training. In my role, I worked in the camp’s kitchen, where I helped stock and organize the necessary items, clean appliances, serve food to the guest tables, and help the chefs with food preparation.

After two summers of learning the job, Ramah offered me an opportunity to serve independently as a staff specialist in the kitchen. From 2006-2012, I spent my summers working at camp and perfecting my skills. In my 14 years at camp, I was able to demonstrate my work ethic and talents, and develop many important relationships that would help me professionally.

After my last summer in 2012, Arnie Harris, the President of Camp Ramah Wisconsin, personally offered me a position at Harris & Harris, a collection agency in downtown Chicago. Ari Derman, who also grew up at Ramah and coordinated the Tikvah Vocational Program while I was a participant, works as an attorney at Harris & Harris, and convinced me that it would be a great fit. I accepted the position as a facilities clerk and quickly started my job. Ari served as my mentor and helped me adjust to a new corporate environment. My teammates taught me how to complete new and exciting tasks.

Omer Matalon and Ari Derman

Omer Matalon and Ari Derman

After two years at Harris & Harris, I couldn’t be happier. My days are action packed. I distribute supplies and mail to the different company departments, help escort our vendors to their destinations, clean workspaces and equipment, and help relocate and build furniture.

My favorite moment at work happened last May, when my peers voted for me to win the company’s Client Engagement Award. That award made me feel like a valued employee and I was proud to have my accomplishments recognized. I appreciate the opportunities that Camp Ramah in Wisconsin helped facilitate for me. I enjoy working alongside Ramah alumni at my job and seeing many friendly faces at Ramah alumni events. I hope that my experience will help inspire and motivate other Tikvah campers and highlight the importance of relationships for young employees in the business world.

Tikvah is a division of Camp Ramah in Wisconsin developed in 1973 to provide inclusion opportunities for children with learning, social and communication difficulties, including those who are higher functioning on the autism spectrum. The Atzmayim Tikvah Vocational Program is supported by a grant from the Ruderman Family Foundation. Follow them on Twitter, Like them on Facebook or learn more on Ramah Wisconsin’s YouTube channel.

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