Editor’s Note: All this week and through the middle of the next we’re focusing on a series of blogs about the emerging Leaders-In-Training Program slated to begin in the summer of 2019. These blogs (and a Facebook Live event on February 7, 2018) are mostly geared toward parents looking into the program and addressing some of your questions. We encourage you to share the information with your campers so you are all on the same page. Please keep in mind that the program is still 18 months off and not all aspects of the program have been finalized. In addition to today’s blog, others include:
- What a Leaders-In-Training Summer Will Look Like
- What Our Transitional Summer 2018 Looks Like
- Beyond LIT — What Comes Next?
- Facebook Live Q & A With Elizabeth and Casey
LIT 2018 Update: Why Be a Leader-In-Training?
Since announcing that we plan to launch a Leaders-In-Training Program in 2019 at Camp Alleghany for Girls, probably the biggest question I’ve gotten is, “Why?” Why a new program?
On behalf of their kids, parents have expressed concerns about traditions, and tee shirts, and fun activities that happen as campers — or that campers hope to do as 16s — and wonder, why change anything?
Campers have shared their worries with us that LIT is an unknown quantity and wonder if they’ll be losing out on things.
And the biggest thing we’ve noticed in the feedback is that both the kids and parents who are wondering about why things are changing are legitimately looking through the eyes of the 12- and 13- and 14-year olds who are initiating the questions. This is understandable…because they’re 12, and 13, and 14 and have certain ideas about what camp is, and what it means to them! And as parents, you’re sympathizing with them.
We get that!
For us, the case for creating our own Leaders-In-Training Program, something we are woefully behind on compared to other camps today, is simply to better meet the needs of our 16-year olds in the world they live in today, with the opportunities and pressures they face today, and the conditions of today. It is an updating of our 16s Program with new needs in mind.
But 14-year-olds aren’t thinking much about that right now.
Who is LIT For?
The difference we see is that the LIT program is for 16-year-olds, a 14-year-old’s future 16-year-old self, not for their current 12-, 13-, and 14-year-old selves (since some younger campers have wondered about it, too).
For parents for whom this is the first and oldest child, you’re also seeing things through those 12-, 13, and 14-year-old eyes, and not through the eyes of who this child is to become. And that’s totally natural!
At the same time, there’s a big difference between being 12-14 and being 16. So we thought we’d offer a peek into what life’s like for 16-year-olds. (Of course, parents were once 16 themselves, but when it comes to “your baby” it all seems like new territory again.)
Most 16s are rising Juniors in High School. Picture them there:
They’re hearing all kinds of messages about acing SAT Test Prep, scheduling SAT and ACT exams, planning college visits to check out potential schools and then applying for the school of their dreams. They’re picking up that first non-babysitting job out there in the “real world,” finding a high school internship or shadowing a professional in a possible future career field, getting a learner’s permit and begging for practice driving sessions and ALSO hoping and praying to pass the driver’s exam AND convince you to let them use the car. In addition to all this they might be taking a self defense class and learning about sexual harassment and other issues in the adult world.
These young women are two years into high school now and dealing with varsity sports, attending the Homecoming Dance or end-of-year Proms, navigating the dating world, and facing peer pressure around sex, drugs, and alcohol.
And them someone tells them they need a brilliant college essay or they have no future ahead!
ACK — the pressure!
That’s a long way from braces, slumber parties, local sports leagues, and maybe a middle school dance. It’s a long way from still cuddling stuffed animals and sneaking a flashlight to read Harry Potter books after bedtime.
It’s not to say that 16-year-olds don’t still have an ample helping of “the kid” still in them. And we want them to! And it doesn’t mean that 12-, 13, and 14-year-olds are too young without anything pressing on their minds.
The difference is just in the proportions of each concern and how it plays out in day-to-day life for all of these kids. It’s simply a matter that the priorities and concerns and needs of these age groups differ widely and it’s difficult to know what it’s like for the 16s when they’re still 14 or younger.
In making this transition from our customary 16s program to the LIT Program for 16-year-olds, our job is to help parents (and campers) understand that the 16 year summer will not be what a 14-year-old wants and needs. It will be what a 16-year-old wants and needs.
Now, this is not to say that everything from the old 16s summer will be gone. Or that LIT will in any way be an extension of school.
NO. NO. NO. Please hear me say, “NO!” loud and clear. The LIT summer will still be in our beloved camp setting with our unique camp culture. It will still be F-U-N with a capital F a capital U and a capital N! 🙂
It’s just that we want to meet our 16s where they are today with the needs they have today in the world they live in today. Think of it as 16s Summer PLUS!
And the same goes for our 14s. We’ve heard plenty over the years that two summers as a Midway wasn’t working anymore. It drags on. Our 14-year-olds are also ready to take the next step by becoming an Upstart a little sooner. We can do that!
There are changes, yes. And there are new opportunities and challenges, yes. And there will be new traditions and new awards, yes. But there will be plenty of the old blended in because hey, we’ve been doing this for 97 summers — why give up a good thing? We see the joy and grace when our programs work and our campers grow.
In my next blog post I’ll talk a bit more about where we are on what the LIT Summer will specifically look like.
But if I leave you with anything from this blog post please let it be this: We understand and embrace how much growth and development happens between 14 and 16. It’s more change than either parents or teens would think in just two short years.
When our current 14s become 16s we’re absolutely confident that as LITs they will not only be more than ready for the program, they’ll be hungry for it. And they’ll be getting just what they need, including their need for fun, at just the right moment.
They’ll also get it from a camp that loves them each as individuals and has their whole self in mind in crafting this new and exciting and meaningful program.
We promise! And just to make good on that promise, tune in to the blog on Wednesday January 31 for the next installment that digs down into the emerging specifics of the LIT Program — what that summer will really look like!
See ya then!
— Elizabeth Shreckhise, Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls