Resource Library

The Beginnings of Youth Development

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“What am I supposed to do,” one camp director asked me, “with a mom who calls the camp every day of the session?” While such a wildly anxious mother may be rare (why did she send her child to camp if she can hardly bear his or her absence?), there is no question that, in general, camp parents are more anxious than in the past.

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Being a counselor to teenagers is one of the most important jobs you will ever have. During this summer, you will learn more about life than you can possibly imagine.

And as is often the case with meaningful learning situations, counseling teenagers will surely test every fiber of your being. Returning staff who are reading this article probably can't help but smile because they already know how much energy it takes to be successful.

So here is the key question: If you are in charge of a group of teens, how can you create lasting memories in your campers?

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Fostering friendships among campers is one of the most important goals of any summer camp program. As counselors, you will play a pivotal role in modeling and teaching your campers the skills they need to make friends, be a good friend to others, and maintain strong friendships.

The importance of your coaching young people in the areas of social and emotional skills has been highlighted in several studies, including the famous 80-year Harvard Study of Adult Development, which found that:

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For years sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists have mourned the loss of traditions marking important childhood "rites of passage." In earlier American culture, movement toward adulthood was accompanied by more ritualistic, meaningful celebrations of transition to newfound independence and responsibility to the family and community.

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There was a day when it was thought that being an American and having "gumption" went hand in hand. As Dennis R. Rader writes in Learning Redefined: Changing the Images that Guide the Process, "America used to be a community alive with the unspoken motto: Gumption Grown Here" (p. 274). What is gumption? Gumption is toughness. Not tough in a stereotypical way (e.g. like suggesting attitudes and actions that are hard, cold, insensitive, or even brutal), but tough meaning emotionally, mentally, and physically f lexible, strong, and resilient.

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If at First You Don’t Succeed . . .
Published Date: 2016-09-01

When I was six or seven, my parents decided I needed to do something structured a couple days a week during the day in the summertime. They ended up sending me to a gym camp, a local day camp that focused on outdoor physical activity — archery, horseback riding, swimming, etc. — something they thought would wear me out a little and make me less of a handful at home.

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“The gluten-free cinnamon rolls are amazing!” Those emphatic words are emblazoned in my brain, stamped into my memory. As tears began to well in her eyes, Annalise, one of our counselors, looked around as if sharing a secret and said, “I haven’t eaten a cinnamon roll in five years! Could I please have your recipe?”

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The mounting pressure to forego a summer at camp in favor of an internship is higher than ever. Many of you may already be thinking that this is your last summer. The pull is strong to look elsewhere to find experience and name recognition that will look good on your resume and help you land the dream job you are hoping for upon graduation. If it is your first summer, perhaps it took an act of Congress to convince your parents, professors, and friends that working at camp is a good idea. The truth is, there has never been a better time to work at camp!

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E.g., 2019-07-17