Leadership Pathways Project: Grant Opportunities for CIT Program Development

Camp staff singing karaoke

We know from our research that camp experiences—for both campers and seasonal camp staff—offer rich opportunities for learning and development. Our research suggests that campers and staff use what they learn at camp in school, in their early jobs, and in roles as they enter adulthood.  This evidence is why we believe that camp experiences should be accessible to all, and why ACA is prioritizing equitable access to camp in its 2020-2024 Strategic Plan.

We also know that many young people face barriers to attending camp. These barriers range from structural barriers (i.e., cost, location) to social barriers like belonging (i.e., a young person of color, LBGTQ+, or youth with physical or developmental disabilities) or family background (no one from the family has ever attended camp). Even a lack of camp staff with whom campers can identify is a way some young people feel like they do not belong at camp.

Without a parent or caregiver who attended camp as a child, a young person today is unlikely to seek or enroll in a camp experience.  Likewise, this same young person is unlikely to seek or value camp staff employment.  As years of ACA enrollment and camp staff data have shown, the results are a camper-staff-camp parent pathway only accessible to some youth.  We know that one of the best ways to achieve access to camp is to create more entry points into this pathway, and the best tool to achieve inclusion is to recruit and retain diverse camp staff.

Counselor in training (CIT) programs are one such promising entry point. We know that CIT and similar leadership programs are common at day and overnight camps. We also know they are often designed to train campers to become camp staff.  However, CIT programs can present their own set of barriers like cost and availability. This reality is why ACA is launching the Leadership Pathways Project.

 

The Leadership Pathways Project

Grant Opportunities

Camps can apply to one of two grant opportunities. Both options are three-year grants. Nonprofit camps and camps operated by federal, state, or municipal organizations that provide direct services to youth are eligible to apply. Up to twenty (20) grants will be awarded to:

  1. Support the design and implementation of a new CIT or similar leadership development program
  2. Support the expansion of an existing CIT or similar leadership development program.

The focus of both grant opportunities is on engaging young people who might not otherwise enroll in a CIT program.  This focus can include young people of color, from low-resource backgrounds, LGBTQ+, or youth with physical or developmental disabilities; we are especially interested in youth representing these populations who did not regularly attend camp as a child.  Applicants must make clear how their proposal will increase access and inclusion to youth representing one or more of these populations and that their organization’s mission and goals support this focus.

 

Cohorts & Mentorship

Grantees designing new CIT programs and grantees expanding an existing CIT program will belong to these respective cohorts. Both cohorts will participate in monthly virtual check-ins and two annual in-person gatherings with their cohort. These gatherings will focus on learning from one another as well as from thought leaders in camp, youth development, and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Grantees will be paired together to work collaboratively and to infuse the design process with new thinking and perspectives.

 

Research & Resource Development

In addition to the grant cohorts, this project also includes a research plan to explore how camps improve practice and policy to achieve their goals related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. An external research team will conduct interviews and case studies that will be used to inform ACA’s strategic goals related to increasing equitable access to camp. Research findings as well as learnings from the cohorts will also be used to develop a toolkit that will be available to camps interested in expanding access to camp through counselor-in-training and similar leadership development programs.

 

Timeline

The three-year project launches in early 2021 with the selection of up to 20 grantees. Grantees will begin work in their cohorts in spring 2021 in preparation for initial testing of their concepts in 2021.  We recognize summer 2021 will continue to present challenges for many camps, and in some cases, grantees may find it difficult or impossible to implement a CIT program in 2021. This anticipated possibility is OK!  Grantees will work with their cohort to identify an implementation strategy and timelines that align with their capacity and capabilities for summer 2021.

  • Year 1 (January 2021—December 2021) — Design & concept testing
  • Year 2 (January 2022—December 2022) — Implementation planning, initial testing, evaluation
  • Year 3 (January 2023—December 2023) — Improvement planning, full implementation, reflection

 

The Deadline to apply for Round 1 was February 8. Applicants who are invited to complete Round 2 of the application will be notified by February 23. Invited applicants will receive a link via email that will direct them to Round 2. If you are having trouble accessing Round 2, please contact Emily Lanter at elanter@acacamps.org.

 

Final grant recipients will be announced on this page in late March, so please check back then to see the list!

 

Please contact Emily Lanter, the Pathways Project Manager, with any questions at elanter@acacamps.org.