About our Staff
Experienced Camp Leadership
Brad Finkel, Director
There are kids that never want to leave camp, and Brad is one of them. In fact, this will be Brad’s 31st summer at Chi. After many summers as a camper, counselor, Assistant Director and now Associate Director, Brad uses his undergraduate degrees from Indiana University in Jewish Studies, Telecommunications, Psychology, Business and Hebrew plus his Master’s degree from Spertus University to keep camp fun and running smoothly.
Joelle Kelenson, Assistant Director
Joelle has a love and passion for JCC camping having attended and worked at JCC Camp Kingswood, Y Country Camps and JCC of Northern Virginia’s day camp. From an early age, Joelle knew she was destined to be at camp forever and has so far achieved that goal. She received her Bachelor’s of Arts in Sociology and Jewish Studies from McGill University and her Master’s Degree in Social Work and Jewish Studies from Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. She is excited to be on her next journey in the JCC camping world and is looking forward to bringing her skills, passions and ideas to the Chi family.
Rachael Finkel, Business Manager
This is Rachael’s 22nd summer as part of the Camp Chi family. Over the years Rachael has held many roles in camp, including becoming a camp parent herself! She is putting her Business Degree from Indiana University to good use as our Business Manager. Rachael is often the name behind the emails and phone calls that most families receive and always happy to help answer any question that comes up.
Ari Wartell, Operations Coordinator
Ari has been part of Camp Chi since 2012. Originally from Pennsylvania, Ari graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a BFA in Stage Management and Technical Theatre. As the Operations Coordinator, Ari is involved in a lot of the behind the scenes work that go into making camp a positive experience for everyone, from registrations to programming and being the voice families hear when they call the main office.
Kyle Kolling, Program Coordinator
This summer will by Kyle’s 17th at Camp Chi. After many years as a camper, counselor, and supervisor Kyle is very happy to now be on the full time team. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Theater Education and English Illinois State University, and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Jewish Non-Profit Business. Kyle is very excited to continue his camp career, and hopes to spend many more summers at Chi. Throughout the year, Kyle also runs camps Chi Town Connection youth group for teens.
Jennifer Phillips, Inclusion Coordinator
Some people were born to do what they do. Jen became inspired to teach students with special needs from her experiences as a one-on-one aide for campers with disabilities at JCC Chicago day camps. After receiving degrees in Elementary Education and Special Education, she has spent 18 years teaching children and teens with special needs, most recently as the head teacher at Keshet’s high school classroom at Ida Crown Jewish Academy. Jen (SIT ’89) has had 8 years of consulting for Keshet’s day and overnight camp programs.
Summer Camp Staff
Brad, Joelle and Kyle personally screen and select the best possible staff from across the country and around the world. Our low 1 to 3 staff-to-camper ratio exceeds the recommendation by the American Camp Association (1 to 6) and assures that each camp group feels like a family. We are fortunate to have many staff members who return to Camp Chi year after year. In fact, 90% of our cabin counselors are former Camp Chi campers.
The health and safety of our campers is our top priority. Before camp begins, all of our staff participates in an intensive education program in addition to ongoing training throughout the summer.
Our staff has a substantial influence on a camper’s journey through childhood into young adulthood. That’s why we take this unique opportunity to teach the kinds of “growing up” skills and vital life lessons which are not taught in schools, yet which are essential for being able to mature and thrive in the world as adults.