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This summer, scads of teen-agers clocked in for millions of hours of summer work. Some were flipping burgers at McDonald's or Burger King. Others bagged groceries seven hours a day. And don't forget that army of lifeguards who spent the summer at the pool.

Then there are the few, the proud -- no, not the Marines, the camp counselors. Yes, those of us who spent our summers away from friends, family, cars and malls. And probably for a lot less money than our friends at the fast food franchises.

I worked for eight weeks this summer at Camp Wyomoco, a 4-H camp in Varysburg, Wyoming County. Being a camp counselor is a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week job, -- or near that, anyway. (Camp weeks went from Sunday around 2 p.m. until the next Saturday at 1 p.m.) This was my fifth year at Wyomoco, but my first as a counselor.

My fellow counselors, a great bunch of people, were from all over Western New York and some even came from Spain.

No sleeping in for us, folks. To give you a typical day:

7 a.m. -- Rise and shine (since I worked in the horse program, I had to be at the barn early).

7:45 a.m. -- Flag raising.

8 a.m. -- Breakfast.

Then it was class time. Campers signed up for classes, taught by counselors, in archery, horseback riding, photography, rocketry, drama and musical production.

Evening activities were a blast. At home we would have been watching TV or going to parties. Why do that when we could gather around a campfire for an evening of Top 10 favorites like "Three Chartreuse Buzzards" or "Kum Ba Ya"? Or boogie down at the weekly Wyomoco dance, the entire camp singing along to the "Grease" megamix or the latest Backstreet Boys single?

I didn't rake in the cash this summer like some of my friends, but camp left me with wonderful memories: the shooting star we named Telulah; the Mardi Gras parade; horseback trail rides; gorge trips; swing dancing in the woods, and many more.

Working at a summer camp is an extremely rewarding experience. (And no, they didn't pay me to say this.) Kids around 9 and 10 years old think high schoolers are "totally cool." And nothing compares to working with your closest friends every day for eight weeks.

Try it. You might like it.

Maria Pendolino is a senior at Clarence High School.

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