“The best way to learn leadership is through discovery and experiential learning, not by lectures.”
— Michael Brandwein, author and internationally recognized expert on teaching and leading young people*
Our Coming Leaders-in-Training Program
On Monday I wrote an introductory blog about about our coming Leader- in-Training Program (LIT) that’s slated to begin in Summer 2018 for our 16-year-old attendees. I couldn’t be more excited about the program — WE (the entire Administrative Team) couldn’t be more excited about it — and we know that parents, campers, and alum also want to know more about what’s in store with this awesome new thing called LIT?
Well, I wish I could tell you everything that’s in store RIGHT NOW! But as I wrote on Monday, we’re at the very beginning of development with this program so information is just naturally limited at this time. Call it a work-in-progress, or an evolution, but whatever you call it, please bear with us as we develop the program in more detail.
We definitely plan to keep you in the loop as we move forward, starting with how we got bitten with the LIT bug.
In part we’re guided by our friend and camp industry mentor Michael Brandwein, an expert on developing leadership in young people. His approach to older teen development is designed to cultivate leadership qualities and skills that will stay with campers their whole lives, positively influencing their choices and paths way beyond camp.
To that end, Brandwein wrote the #1 national best-selling book on developing teen leaders at camps titled Learning Leadership; How to Develop Outstanding Teen Leadership Programs at Camp. It’s a book that’s proved to be an invaluable resource for us as we move in this direction.
And getting to see Michael in person at camp conferences is just the icing on the cake — it’s only added to the inspiration and resources that have positively impacted Camp Alleghany for Girls in general and the coming LIT program in particular.
Can you see why we’re so excited?!
Okay, But What Does This Mean?
“As these young people make the transition to adulthood, they are hungry to learn how to work with others, build strong relationships, communicate, persuade, solve problems, be creative, and more.”
— Michael Brandwein
The difference between what 16s experience now in camp, and what they’ll experience as LITs is, first of all, that they’ll no longer be campers but they won’t actually be counselors either.
Now, while that sounds like “limbo,” with an LIT Program, it’s definitely NOT limbo. Instead it’s a crucial bridge year, even call it a rite-of-passage, a time to explore the world of transition from one phase of life — childhood — that you’re still in, while seeing on the horizon another phase of life — adulthood — that you’re not quite at yet.
Our society isn’t really very good at providing these rites-of-passage beyond earning a driver’s license or receiving that high school diploma. But passing a driver’s test or flipping the tassel on a mortar board aren’t enough support to see our young people from one distinct phase of life to the next.
Something more meaningful is desperately needed! Parents definitely provide the greater part of that, but remember, these are teens! They’re also looking for information, guidance, and inspiration from other sources beyond the family. And for many, nowhere are there more trusted adults and a more beloved context than camp. That’s why the LIT programs work so well in camps.
Nuts and Bolts
“Leadership can be learned. Unfortunately, our girls are growing up in a world where they hear people described as having a ‘gift’ or as being ‘natural’ or ‘born’ leaders. This makes many young people feel that we have to have some special, magical ‘something’ to be a real leader. This is bogus.”
— Michael Brandwein
One key difference between the current 16s year and what will happen in LIT is that our 16s will come out of LIT not only with a certificate for having been in LIT in general, but also a very specific secondary certification such as in lifeguarding or first aid or wilderness training or something like that. (This program feature is certain, but the specific certifications are still in the exploration phase.)
Another difference is that the service component will be specific and ongoing through the LIT summer. While all of our campers are engaged in things like ‘Ghany We Will Give, and other components of understanding service to others, our LITs will definitely be engaged in one or more service-oriented outreach effort, likely directed in the surrounding area (and supervised by our staff).
Engaging with the community will help open our LITs’ eyes to struggles that they might not have encountered and help prepare our LITs for the world beyond their comfort zones.
But there are other nuts and bolts that we’re sure you’re curious about so we’ve begun an evolving FAQ on the topic to share with you. Soon, this FAQ will live on our website on a dedicated page, and we’ll add to it as we learn and develop more.
For now, again, we’re just at the very beginning stages of development. Much is subject to change as we explore what works. The program is slated to open two summers from now, so if you can be patient and sympathetic with us as we develop it, that would be a huge help! 😀
An Evolving FAQ on Camp Alleghany’s L.I.T. (Leadership In Training) Program
Starting in 2018
“Camp provides a positive, supportive, and motivating place where young people can do three things, which are the hallmarks of an outstanding leadership development program: (1) We help them figure out what good leaders do and say; (2) We give them lots of opportunities to practice doing and saying these things; (3) We make it fun.”
— Michael Brandwein
Q: What are LITs?
- This is a transitional year between camper and counselor
- They are not campers, yet they are not counselors
- The program has a focus on leadership and personal growth/development
- The curriculum is not yet set, but we have a lot of ideas
Q: What kinds of things will they do?
The curriculum hasn’t yet been developed, but possible ideas are:
- A 3-day backpacking trip
- Certifications training (lifeguard, ropes, wilderness first aid, etc.)
- A project that would take all summer to complete, possibly requiring manual labor on their part – something that would benefit camp in some way (a new campfire site, a new garden, etc.)
- Possibly a few responsibilities that the JCs have now, such as completing Banquet programs
- Shadowing counselors in various areas, including a day (or days) of teaching activities under counselor supervision
- Public speaking projects/workshops
- Writing workshops
- Modern life workshop
- Developing and executing an evening activity or two
There are MANY camps (most camps, actually, including our brothers over at Camp Greenbrier) that have programs such as these, and they’re happy to share their models and curricula. Additionally, there are many books and conferences on this very topic. We plan to use all of these resources in developing our program!
By the way, your ideas are welcomed, too, so please share with us if you have any idea that we should consider.
Q: Why do we need this?
A great many Camp Alleghany for Girls campers see themselves one day becoming Junior Counselors (JCs) and then counselors. While they revel in their time as just campers, they also begin to see themselves in the counselors, especially when those counselors tell their stories of having once been a camper.
It’s kind of always been this way at ‘Ghany — the passion to move to the next stage year-by-year. As Hoppers, and even as Upstarts (since these older campers take care of younger campers when the counselors have time off), we see campers eager to take on responsibilities, to learn, grow, and gain new privileges. This is part of our mission in helping to nurture and shape the lives of the young girls and young women in our care.
But there are things we simply can’t talk about to campers, even the 16s, in order to preserve their “camperhood.” This makes our counselor preparation trajectory limited. Thus the idea of a “non-camper, yet non-counselor” LIT summer took root. Again, this is the norm among the majority of our peer camps.
By using an LIT summer to further develop the higher level personal responsibility and growth of our LIT campers, we’ll have many more pieces in place for them to be happy, successful, accomplished JCs when the time comes.
And that’s a summer that so many of our campers look forward to. For them to have the best experience once it comes, we feel that LIT will be the bridge that they need while simultaneously assisting them in so many other aspects of their lives — from the academic to the social, from jobs to personal expression, from confidence to expecting fair treatment as girls and young women! We want them to feel ready — to know that they’re ready from the inside — no matter what comes next in their lives.
One of those things is bound to be being a JC since so many want to do just that!
Perhaps due to a more demanding and complex modern world, including camp accreditations and other pieces in the professional camp world today, we’ve increasingly seen that there’s more to squeeze into training to help all our counselors be fully prepared for the summer season.
For the JCs, the JC summer is their first time in full time Staff Training. They’ve enjoyed some preparation the summer before in their special Upstart class. But really, there just isn’t enough time in one hour per day the summer before to truly prepare Upstart campers to become JCs in today’s camp world, given that JCs have responsibilities just as demanding as the counselors who are their seniors — counselors who are also college students and sometimes coming back after college graduation, internships, fellowships, study abroad, and more.
We wondered not only How could we help all of our 16s be better prepared for the modern world, but also How can we best equip today’s camper to transition to the more demanding role of today’s JC? Most Upstarts apply to be JCs, but even those that don’t go on to other demanding things like competitive summer sports programs, high school internships, or jobs. Our new LIT Program will be designed to nurture and amplify their success in whatever direction they choose.
At its heart, Camp Alleghany for Girls is about positively nurturing and developing girls and women at all stages of our growth and development. And, as an aside, for those LITs who do become JCs, they’ll still have JC class as it too is a process of personal growth and development that we nurture across every summer, including for full counselors, albeit in another form for them.
We’re certain that, since Camp Alleghany has proven to be such a strong network of women, with alum consistently referencing the ongoing friendships that were first formed at camp, the LIT Program will be yet another way to strengthen bonds of loyalty and connection in so many ways. Our LITs will be stronger people in general and stronger JCs at camp. And then our JCs will be even better prepared to be full counselors! They’ll also likely stay on for more summers as counselors when they learn what value being a camp counselor has for other jobs in the so-called “real world” (hint, camp jobs are in the real world, too!).
Program Length and Arc
What we’ve seen at many camps today is that LIT programs are traditionally full summer programs. Depending on the camp, this can be anything from about 6 weeks to as long as 10 weeks.
Right now we haven’t determined everything about our proposed program. We’ve focused more on the reasons behind program design, like the unfolding of all the goals we wish to achieve in building young leaders, along with the demands of the certifications, how long it takes to do various services projects, and of course, living the summer life in camp itself, with its unique rhythms and joys! All of these things take time and can’t be rushed.
Another thing going into our thinking about program length is our historic enrollment. We’ve found that the majority of 16s have historically stayed full-term, so if we decide on a six-week program for LIT, as is likely we will, our thinking is that it isn’t likely to impact families’ decisions about camp since most 16s have usually come for the whole summer anyway.
But what if this isn’t what you expected time-wise? Or what if you hadn’t thought about it yet?
As we get closer to the program’s launch, we’ll do a blog on three weeks versus six weeks and the specific nature of the program so that you’ll more clearly be able to see why, if we do six weeks, that it’s the best way to implement the LIT program (as well as why that’s a good thing for campers)! In the meantime, you can read a blog post I wrote on why it’s mandatory for our counselors to stay the whole summer. The correlation isn’t exact, but there is some overlap.
But don’t worry, even though this is a special new program, it’s still slated to cost the same as full-term tuition (which isn’t just one tuition doubled, there’s actually a full-term discount). We’ll have to see about costs, but we’re very mindful of keeping things in line with expected tuition across camp to aid in families’ planning for the LIT summer. We’ve also brainstormed setting up a separate scholarship fund for this program, which we’ll be looking at as the program moves forward.
Q: What will this look like for Camp as a whole?
- Midways will be 13s only
- Upstarts will be 14s and 15s
- LITs will be 16
We’ll shift the living arrangements in Senior Camp so that Midways are in Unit 1, 14s in Unit 2, 15s in Unit 3, and LITs in Unit 4. There will be an experienced Head Counselor hired as the LIT Leader, who will live in a tent in Unit 4. The LITs won’t have a counselor assigned to them, just their LIT Leader.
The LIT Leader will work in close relationship to the Admin Team, and will be chosen for her affinity with this age group both to motivate and inspire as well as to truly lead, nurture, and develop our LITs in positive and constructive ways that parents will surely notice when the LITs return home!
Q: How will we phase this in?
Phase 1: 2016
- Focus groups with staff members, especially Tinges (a camper who was a JC and then a full counselor) to discuss what could have prepared them better to be a counselor.
- Talk to this summer’s 14s, as they will be the first LITs, about what the rest of their Senior Camp experience will look like; get their ideas/participation; talk about creating the traditions, song, color, etc. (We expected to do this both terms but the flood and shortened First Term made it so we were only able to talk to Second Term 14s this year.)
- Begin to develop an explanation of the program along with a permanent FAQ page.
- Research on the curriculum begins.
Phase 2: 2017
- Living arrangements shift in Senior Camp.
- Summer 2017 15s will have Upstart class every day like 16s, since they won’t get a traditional 16 summer (so both groups of Upstarts will have the same program/curriculum as 16s, and our 15s will NOT miss out on the prior-existing “16s Summer” experience).
- LIT curriculum is starting to be developed.
- Share more with the first potential LIT parents and get feedback.
Phase 3: 2018
LIT program is implemented for the first summer!
As you can see, while we have awesome models throughout the camp world, and ideas of our own that are unique to ‘Ghany, and a good solid sketch of the coming program, we’re still in the early stages of this transition. We welcome your feedback and ideas, your questions and concerns, and your love and praise, too! (It’s not easy developing something new!)
We’re all in this together, together caring for the campers and the richness of their lives — lives we share with you as partners in their growth and development!
And now stay tuned for Friday when I share with you some of the comments, questions, concerns, and hopes of our current 14s from our interviews this past summer.
— Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls
* Michael Brandwein is an educator and youth development expert who has presented in all 50 states and on six continents. He’s the number one best-selling author in the camp field, including Learning Leadership; How to Develop Outstanding Teen Leadership Programs at Camp, and a former member of the national board of directors of the American Camp Association.