Leading for Tomorrow: I Believe In Accreditation

Tom Holland
November 2015

I believe in accreditation.

Fifteen years ago, I helped manage the accreditation visit at my camp. It was my first time going through the process, but for my camp, the process was one in which they had engaged for decades. As a staff member, I was impressed that we invited such a process and welcomed the review from outside volunteers. I was told that the process was a voluntary one that our camp had opted into. While intimidating at first, I grew to welcome the accreditation visit as a time for learning, a time for affirmation, and a time to ensure that our program was providing our campers with the very best camp experience.

Through the accreditation process volunteers would join us to see that standards were being met in practice. While the standards and the process have evolved over the years, I found one thing has always been consistent in the process: Our camp would receive recommendations of best practices that could further evolve our camp program to benefit our participants.

Over the years, we at ACA have received wide-ranging feedback from many of our 2,400 camp programs about the accreditation process. We listened to this feedback and then put a group together to analyze recommended adjustments. Like many camps that have heard feedback from ACA visitors over the years, we wanted to heed the best practices without diminishing the quality of the program we offer. With this goal in mind, a task force met in 2013 to discuss options for the next evolution of our accreditation program while also discussing the needs of the next generation of campers.

Out of that meeting came recommendations that were then taken to the National Standards Commission (NSC). This group evaluated the analysis and made a recommendation that ACA change the process of accreditation. That change in process would be simple in concept: When a camp has passed through the three-year accreditation cycle twice, it would move to a process where that camp would provide a yearly annual report for four years and on the fifth year the visit would occur. This year, after much examination and deliberation by various groups, the ACA National Board of Directors followed the NSC recommendation and adopted this change in process.

The implementation of this change will occur over the next few years in a staged process; consequently, not every camp will be immediately impacted. But this latest adjustment of the accreditation process will help us streamline a system that needs to continually evolve while also ensuring the quality of the accreditation program and the seal of the “ACA ACCREDITED” logo is not diminished. More information about this process.

After I completed that accreditation process years ago, I remember being sent the ACA ACCREDITED logo with a letter that said we’d passed our accreditation. I still remain proud of that symbol that hangs in so many of our camps around the country. I know my sense of pride in that logo will continue to grow as we work to implement this change — because I also know ACA will continue to be built on our strong traditions of excellence while striving to evolve to meet the needs of the future.

ACA will continue to advance the excellence of our accreditation processes and standards. It is our duty to make it of the highest quality to benefit the campers in our programs and the best educational experience for camps who seek to acquire the “accredited” designation.