CAMP CALIFORNIA TEAM
Each summer Camp California brings together a wonderful team of counselors and staff to give your child the best possible summer camp experience. The majority of our cabin counselors are Native English Speaking from the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Many of our counselors and staff are also fluent in: Croatian, Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Russian and Spanish. Our counselors are also highly skilled and experienced in the many activities we offer at Camp California as well as previous experience in youth development and supervision.
Mike “Higgy” Higginbotham is originally from Santa Cruz, California has been a part of the traditional “American Style” summer camping experience since the age of 5 as a camper, counselor, Head Counselor, Program Director and Director. In 1992 Mike’s experiences in the summer camp industry expanded to the international recruitment arena. Mike spent the next 15 years as International Country Director in the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa recruiting young men and women to travel to the United States each summer to experience being a camp counselor at one of the over 10,000 summer camps in the United States. In 2003 “Camp California in Croatia” was to be the first American Style summer camp in Europe and Mike or “Higgy” as thousands of children from around the world know him, has had the privilege of being the Director of Camp California since its first summer. Since 2003, Camp California has hosted over 8000 children from over 60 countries around the world to experience what Mike believes is one of the best opportunities a child can have growing up. Mike spends a part of his year catching waves in South Africa and California and his summers at Camp California in Croatia.
Maja Antonic is our Operations Director and has been involved with Camp California since summer 2005. Maja’s main focus is on streamlining operations and admissions to provide the highest level of service and exceptional customer care for our families. Maja is also responsible for the marketing and general day to day operations of the office in Croatia. Maja is from Rijeka in Croatia and spends a part of her year in California and South Africa.
Anita Torbarina is proudly from Debeljak, a small town near Zadar, Croatia and has been our Admissions Manager since summer 2015. She is responsible for guiding families through the application process, holds the answers to all your questions and is an expert in taking things from zero to awesome. Anita loves the outdoors and in her free time can mostly be found hiking through forests, climbing mountains and sleeping under the stars.
Conor Caheny is back for his 5th year at Camp California and has been everything from cabin counselor/activity instructor, boys unit leader and in charge of program at Resident Camp. Conor is looking forward to a new challenge this summer by being in charge of our Teen Adventure Program. He is our very own wee leprechaun from the emerald island of Ireland. Conor has just recently finished up in university with a degree in Sport & Business. From this degree has has learned and achieved many valuable qualifications ranging from becoming a qualified lifeguard, first aid qualification, level 1 swim teacher, child protection courses, disability inclusion and the list goes on. Conor is currently working as a badminton and tennis coach back home and he also helps in leading mental health awareness workshops which aim to promote positive mental health through sport. Conor is also the head coach for the Shuttle Stars badminton club which are in preparation for the special olympics! Some of his many silly and whacky random talents include a mean funky chicken, Camp California record of kicking himself in the head 81 times in a minutes which we highly recommend you don’t try and various duck noises which he likes to use to scare people. Conor can’t wait to see you all around camp for another amazing Summer!
Greta is really excited to return for her fourth summer at Camp California, where she is taking on the exciting challenge of Teen Adventure! She is 25 years old and from the United Kingdom and is currently studying to be a primary school teacher. She loves working with children from all different cultures and looks forward to continuing this passion in the future. Greta loves exploring new places, having fun with friends and designing arts and crafts projects in her free time. She has a keen passion for Science, especially Space, and loves to look out at the stars on a starry night. She is looking forward to camp this year, to meet all of the new (and old faces) of Camp California, and taking part in the fun, exciting (and sometimes scary) challenges of TA! See you soon!
Kate Willis is from the South coast of England and is returning for her 5th summer in charge of program at Resident Camp . Kate has been a cabin counselor in Resident Camp for 2 summers and in charge of Teen Sailing the last two summers. Prior to Camp California, Kate was a couselor at a Girl Scout camp in Rhode Island, USA for two summers. Kate has also spent several months volunteering in Kenya and Thailand teaching English.
Katie O’Dea is 25 years old and will be joining us from the land down under (Melbourne, Australia) this summer. She has a degree in Media, Communications and Writing and another in International and Community Development, but has a passion for travelling so has worked in the travel industry for the last 2 years pursuing her dreams of seeing the world. Her friends would describe her as a loud, positive and energetic person who will give anything a crack (try). She can’t live without potatoes, travel and good jokes. In her spare time she can be found planning her next adventure and rock climbing. Her superpower is providing inspiration and motivational pep talks, and she believes that whatever you dream of doing, you can make it happen. When it comes to this summer, Katie is really looking forward to making a difference. She did a camp in the USA as an outdoor adventure instructor and she wants to do it all over again at Camp California and give the kids a summer to remember.
Marco White, from Middlesbrough, England is 25 years of age and is with us for his fifth summer. Marco began as a Cabin Counselor and Activity Leader during his first two summers, then became Older Boys Unit Leader and Head of Sports and Ropes/Climbing last summer. This year Marco is will be on our Teen Adventure Program. Marco also loves football and travelling, last summer he visited many countries in Eastern and Central Europe after camp. He has also taught English in China and was a Childcare Snow Ranger in the French Alps. Back home in England, Marco works in a high school as a Learning Support Assistant, helping children with special needs, and will soon be studying a degree in Physical and Outdoor Education at Leeds Beckett University in Northern England to become a teacher.
Patrick Mooney is 22 years old, coming from Kelowna, BC, on the west coast of Canada. He grew up on a mountain in a small ski community, going to school by bike, sled or skiing. Patrick has been skiing since he was two years old, almost longer than he has been walking. He enjoys all water activities, specifically sailing and swimming. Patrick is currently obtaining an undergraduate at the University of British Columbia, he loves history and theatre. Pat is back for his third summer at Camp Cal and will down at the waterfront making sure you all have a safe and fun time on the Adriatic.
Sam Vrhovec is 21 years of age, from Ljubljana, Slovenia and is back with us for his second summer as a cabin counselor and activity leader. Sam was also a camper at Camp California for many summers. He finishing his studies this year at Alpen Adria University in International Relations. Sam has spent the last 5 years studying in Grahmstown, South Africa. He speaks English, German and Slovenian and is interested in Rugby, Cricket and the Haka.
Niamh (surprisingly pronounced “Neeve”) Hickey is a 21 year old, proud Irish girl. She was born and raised in the popular tourist town of Killarney on the South West of Ireland. Niamh is a student in University, currently studying Science education and is going into her final year of the course in September. With her course comes a lot of dealings with children and young people including two sets of school placement. She currently helps to train young people from the ages of 8-15 in Killarney Badminton club as well as offering training at her local football club. Niamh loves the outdoors and has been involved in a wide variety of sports since she was a child, Gaelic football (Ireland’s National sport) being one of her favourites. Niamh’s special talents include her ability to move her ears… together and individually! She can’t wait to dive into the camp experience and get the chance to meet new people from all around the world!
This is Peta’s first year at Camp Californian, she is beyond excited to join you this summer .Peta is a 23 year old from Cape Town, South Africa. Who in her spare time can be found out side with the horses or spending the whole day in the water. She is currently completing her Equine Body Work course and Au pairing two little girls. She has her level 1 first aid and is a qualified lifeguard. Peta loved her last camp experience at summer camp and the possibility of travel afterwards, she can’t think of anything better to do with her summer than spend it at Camp California!
Rachael Briggs is a 21 year old Irish girl from Dublin. Her dream is to be a physiotherapist and to travel the world. She is currently studying an honors degree in Sports Rehab and Athletic Therapy in IT Carlow. This will be her second summer at an International Summer Camp, where she previously was a counsellor and lifeguard. She loves working with children and loves her sports. Rachael teaches swimming and lifesaving to all ages as she is both a swim teacher and an Irish Water Safety instructor. She is also a sports coach and an Irish Girl Guides leader. Her friends would describe her as a very active person, always on the go. People would call her “Smiley” as she would always have a smile on her face. In her spare time, you would see Rachael out for a run, exploring new places or either at the gym or on the basketball courts .Water activities would be her favorite, so you will probably see her most often down at the waterfront. If she could have a superpower, it would be to breathe underwater.
Nick was born and raised in County Cork in the south of Ireland and is counting down the days to come for his first summer in Camp California. Nick has just recently finished his degree in economics in University College Cork and has previous experience working at the summer camp, Camp B’nai Brith, in Montreal last summer. He also has played numerous sports all his life and has a keen interest in many other despite being told he has the coordination of a new-born giraffe, but hey everybody loves a trier. Nick is eager to get to camp to add to the fantastic experience and provide each of you with the best summer ever.
Mykala is 22 years old and is from Toronto, Ontario, Canada! She has just graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce and will be starting law school in the Fall where she hopes to pursue a career in international law. Mykala loves children and has worked at summer camps in both Canada and the United States as a counselor, lifeguard, and waterfront director. Although she currently lives in Newfoundland, Canada where it snows seven months out of the year, she loves water sports, especially swimming, kayaking, and rowing. Mykala’s friends would describe her as adventurous, friendly and kind. Three things she cannot live without are her iPod, contact lenses, and a friend to talk to. In her spare time, she can usually be found studying at Starbucks or planning her next backpacking trip. Mykala has chosen to work at Camp California because she believes it will be an amazing opportunity to interact with people from all over the world while doing something she loves - working with kids.
Krista is 30 years old, but age is just a number right? She is currently completing a degree that majors in Early Childhood Education and has worked with children in many different settings over the past 10 years. She is from Sydney Australia, but has spent the last few years living and traveling throughout Europe. Three things that she absolutely cannot live without are laughter, Harry Potter and a water bottle. Krista loves having fun and being active, so cannot wait for the excitement of camp and getting to know all of her new friends along the way.
Anna will be joining Camp California for her second summer and will be down at our waterfront overseeing the sailing programs. She grew up in a the English countryside and is currently studying Sport and Exercise Medical Science at Exeter University. Anna has sailed since a child and takes part in hockey, tennis, and athletics at university. Anna is a keen traveller, having previously volunteered in Swaziland with a sport charity and visited much of South America.
Katarina is 20 years old and a lifer at Camp California - she first attended camp ten years ago and has been at Resident Camp, Teen Adventure, a Junior Counselor and is now returning for her first time as a Counselor. When not in Croatia over the summer, Katarina is a student at New York University Abu Dhabi. She's half-American, half-Croatian and speaks English, Croatian, French fluently. Her past experiences have included teaching English to primary school students in extracurricular programs, pool lifeguarding, and being a swim instructor. In her spare time, she can be found reading or researching her next trip. She can't wait to spend yet another summer at Camp Cal!
Julie is 28 and will be joining us for her first summer at Camp California in the teen adventure sailing program! Julie grew up in Houston, Texas and first started learning how to sail there. She now resides in Nashville, Tennessee and is an elementary school counselor. She has spent 6 summers teaching sailing at summer camps in Kentucky, Tennessee, and the Florida Keys. Julie loves spending time her free time outside. You can usually find her racing her Vanguard 15 sailboat or hiking on one of the local trails. You will also find that Julie always has chap stick, a hair tie, and a positive attitude readily available. She is very excited about spending her camp season in Croatia this year and sharing her passion of sailing with campers.
Darren is from County Armagh in Ireland and is returning for his second summer. He is graduating this year from the School of Pharmacy at Queens university in Belfast. Prior to Camp California, Darren worked at a summer camp in the American state of West Virginia, where he was in charge of the outdoor survival activities and backpacking trips, as well as helping out on the lake. He loves the outdoors, mountain-biking and all things water related and can't wait to see you out on the waterfront, mountain-biking trails and basketball court!"
Gemma is excited for her first summer at Camp California, coming all the way from Melbourne, Australia. She is a 22 year old who spends most of her summers sailing, paddle boarding and occasionally windsurfing. She is also an Accredited Australian Head sailing Coach and enjoys teaching younger children to sail. When not in the water, Gemma is studying a double degree in Business and IT at Monash University or spending time with her dog, Max. She is a loyal, friendly, trustworthy and energetic person, who is looking forward to meeting everyone over
Emma is 25 years old, joining us all the way from Christchurch, New Zealand. Emma has recently graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts majoring in photography from Canterbury University, where she found a particular interest in connections between people and the landscape. Emma grew up on a farm just out of small town, Masterton New Zealand, possibly where her passion began to be on and around water and the in the outdoors. Emma has spent multiple years working with children around the world, from teaching outdoor school and counselling at Summer Camps in Calgary, Canada to working as an after-school and holiday programme supervisor in Christchurch, New Zealand. One of Emma’s special talents/superpowers includes breaking out into a vast range of campfire or old Taylor Swift songs at any opportunity. Some of Emma’s friends describe her as a mermaid because of her bright red hair and love for water, most however would comment that on her enthusiastic nature and positive outlook. Three things that Emma couldn’t live without would be water to play in, a camera to capture memories and people to make memories with. From spending time at camps in the past, Emma believes that the memories made at summer camp will be some of the most treasured memories you will have for the rest of your life. Camp becomes your home and your fellow campers become your family, it couldn’t get much better!
Gabrielle is 22 and from Madison, Wisconsin, USA! She is studying at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. Where she is majoring in Rehabilitation Psychology and minoring in Sociology. While being a full time student she has been working at Wisconsin Early Autism Project as a therapist, helping find the early signs of autism, under the age of two. She has found the love of traveling when she studied abroad in Australia. She loves to run and explore the outdoors! Gabbie is back again for her second summer and will be in the Keep Well Cabin again this summer as “Camp Mum”
Eliza is excited to be joining the Camp California team from NSW, Australia. Eliza is 23 years old and has been working as a qualified speech pathologist in a country town in Aus. While her position was working with people right across the lifespan, Eliza’s passion was working with children. Eliza has a lot of experience working with children from a variety of backgrounds, and with diverse abilities and needs. While studying at university, Eliza was a residential advisor, and was responsible for the welfare of 20 residents. Eliza is a social butterfly who loves travelling, the outdoors and reading. Eliza is looking forward to meeting new people from around the world and making life long memories at camp ’
Eimear is coming all the way from the city of Belfast to experience her first summer at Camp California. She has been a counselor at many camps before, in both America and Australia, however wanted to experience a new place and thought she would check out the beautiful country of Croatia this summer. She LOVES the outdoors and cannot wait to be part of Teen Adventure this summer. Eimear is currently in University of Ulster studying a masters course in Applied Behavior Analysis, and is working within forensic mental health and developmental disabilities. Eimear is a keen traveler, having spent the last number of years gallivanting around America, Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand and Asia. In her spare time she can be found hiking up a mountain, researching a new place to travel to or doing some yoga. She plays traditional Irish music and can't wait to deafen you all with her tin whistle this summer. Eimear can’t wait to meet you all and have a fantastic summer at Camp Cal.
Ed is currently studying business and management at Oxford Brookes university and currently lives in Colchester in the UK. Ed is usually described as sporty and determined by my friends which is good as sport is one thing he couldn’t live without along with music. Ed’s spare time is usually spent with friends outside either playing sport or catching up. Have travelled around Europe and south east Asia in recent holidays. Ed believes that Camp California will be the highlight of the summer and an experience you won’t forget. Which is why he choose to come for his summer as well!
Damian is 22 years old from Ireland and just finished his university degree in Business Economics. He speaks a little bit of Spanish, loves to travel and has been travelled around Europe, South-east Asia, 20 of the United States and plans to add Croatia to his list. He has worked at summer camp in America for two summers and taught English in Cambodia last summer. His friends describe him as talkative, outgoing and having a good sense of humor. Three things he cannot live without is his family, friends and his passport. In his spare time Damian can be found hanging out with his mates. He plans to fill his summer making new friends and making sure that the kids have an amazing summer at camp!
Kimberley is returning for her second summer at Camp California and is so excited to be our Unit Leader for younger girls this year. All the way from Christchurch, New Zealand, Kimberley has a degree in primary school teaching and is currently completing a Graduate Diploma in Marketing. Back home, she has coached swimming, gymnastics, surf-lifesaving and dance and been both a pool and surf lifeguard. She has also been a Residential Assistant for university students and an activity-leader at an English language school in the United Kingdom. Kimberley cannot wait to get back to Croatia for another summer filled with camp songs, lip synchs, the Adriatic Sea and friends from around the world.
Claire is 25 years old from Lexington, Kentucky in the United States. When around friends, she goes by “Claire-Bear.” Claire received a dual degree in English and Journalism from the University of Kentucky in 2017. She hopes to focus on international writing and teaching abroad. If Claire is not spending her free time outdoors, she can be found with a book and a pen. She hopes to teach the kids this summer how to share their stories through writing as well. The three things she can’t live without are Sour Patch Kids, anything Harry Potter, and music. Claire has grown up around “bluegrass” and rolling hills in Kentucky, but her dream superpower would be to live underwater. This summer, she is really looking forward to all of the activities on the water she will get to participate in with the kids. Most of all, she cannot wait to become a mentor for the kids she will be looking after at camp. She cannot wait to teach them, hear their stories, and learn from them herself. She is very excited for the lifelong friendships Camp California will bring this summer.
Ciara just graduated from Stellenbosch University in Visual Communication Design in sunny South Africa with a keen interest in art and design. She is currently enjoying not being a stressed-out student while interning in Copenhagen, Denmark and exploring Europe. Having previously taught English at camps and schools over Thailand for a year she gained a passion for travelling and a good fun-filled camp experience. She is passionate about good food, interesting people and exploring new places and is always ready for new adventures. Having been to Croatia before she is excited at the idea of returning for a summer filled with new experiences and outdoor adventures in such a beautiful country.
Madge is overjoyed to be returning to Camp California again this summer as our Unit Leader for the older girls. Madge is a 23 year old Kiwi (New Zealander) from Martinborough in New Zealand, with a love of travel, the outdoors, learning and people. She has spent seven months teaching English at a school in Thailand and travelling throughout South East Asia, an experience she considers one of her best decisions to date. Sports and the ocean have played a big part in Madeleine's life and she is looking forward to being involved in the water-based activities at Resident Camp this summer.
Meet Angela, new addition to our admin team. Angela has been with us for only a short time but has already found her place in our excel sheet hearts and hard drive minds. Angela was born in New York, USA but raised in Croatia. She spent her youth on an Island Pašman, just of coast of camp, chasing seagulls and fishing. After high school she moved to Zagreb to chase a degree in Civil Engineering. Angela has a secret passion for fashion and vintage clothes and not so hidden passion for traveling. She believes that you should set a daily goal of making someone else happy and you will be happy too. During summer Angela will be a part of our office team making sure everything runs smoothly and when she is not in the office you can find her on the Hollywood bowl heartily joining every camp song!
Bella Plumbly , is 21 years old and is from Bath, England. She currently studies Psychology at Exeter University, where she plays netball and tennis for the University team. She spent last summer as a tennis specialist on a summer camp in upstate New York, and has experience coaching children at home. Bella loves to travel, having spent time in South East Asia, the USA and recently returned from trekking to Everest Base Camp in the Himalayas. Her friends would describe her as fun, caring and always on the go. She loves being outdoors and can’t wait for all the smiles and fun to be had this summer!
Jackie grew up as a camper at her home state of Long Island, New York. When she grew up she couldn't bare to leave camp so she became a camp counselor! She has been a camp counselor for four years on Shelter Island by the Atlantic Ocean. It'll be her first year at Camp California! She recently just graduated with an English Language Arts and Creative Writing degree from St. Francis College in Brooklyn. She teaches creative writing to children of all ages. Recently she has traveled to snowy Norway and sunny Australia. She loves the sea and is excited to swim in the Adriatic. She is excited to have a splendidly active summer.
Alex is proudly South African and from the city of Johannesburg. She studied Communication (graphic) Design at the University of Johannesburg and recently graduated Cum Laude. Before she arrived at camp she completed her internship as a Graphic Designer at a Digital Agency. Alex’s friends would describe her as bubbly, caring and full of energy. Alex cannot live without pizza, her pillow and Summer. In her spare time you can find her in the pool, with friends, participating in charity work and drawing. Alex enjoys doing morning or evening yoga and meditation. Alex has the unique superpower loudness, everybody knows when Alex is around with her loud voice, laugh and quirkiness. Alex has been a counsellor at her local church in South Africa and youth center holiday clubs for more than 3 years. At University she tutored many school students in a wide variety of subjects over 3 years. Why camp? Alex says the real question is why not? A chance to meet new people, make friends and have awesome new adventures together, nothing sounds better! When it comes to this Summer, Alex is looking forward to meeting different people from all walks of life, learning new things, being outdoors and being active. Over this Summer Alex would love to be mostly involved in water sports as that is what she most enjoys. She loves being in the open water (and basically should have been a mermaid).
James will be joining Camp California for the first time this summer, and is very excited because he has never been to Croatia. He is 24 years old and graduated from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and International Relations, but decided that traveling was more important than going to law school like he planned. After spending about a year and a half on the road, James settled in Arkansas where he kayaks, hikes, swims, and explores by day and is a bartender by night. He may be from Arkansas, USA, but before you ask, YES they DO wear shoes down there. He is thrilled and cannot wait for camp this summer!
Jesse is 23 y/o, he’s originally from Napier, New Zealand but now calls Melbourne, Australia his home. Coming to camp will be his first time in Europe, and he has plans to travel as much of it as possible. His mates would describe him as loud, sassy and fun. In his spare time he can usually be found smashing back burgers. He believes that having fun is one of the most important things in life and has dedicated 2018 to be a year focused on fun. After working with kids over the last 5 years camp seemed like a great fit and he is always keen for anything adventure-ry! He’s most looking forward to getting a great tan this summer and making some new mates! Je
Joe resides on the East Coast of Australia and is thrilled to be attending camp for the first time. At 23 years old he has completed his Diploma in Outdoor Recreation and has had over 4 Years’ experience working with children and the great outdoors. When he is not working he enjoys spending his days Rock climbing, Abseiling, playing sports and soaking up the sun on the beautiful beaches of Australia. Joe is most looking forward to spending those hot summer days by the water front passing on his knowledge in Kayaking and Stand up Paddle boarding.