Developing leadership skills at camp

Residential camp provides a unique opportunity to allow young people to develop their leadership skills.  When girls attend Camp Runoia they have an opportunity to not only develop hard skills in activity areas and interpersonal skills but also to begin developing strong leadership skills.  Leadership starts at an early age at camp as adults often allow girls room to try out their skills and begin to develop their own sense of autonomy.  As their time at camp extends into their teen years older girls become mentors to younger campers, leaders of teams, assistant coaches in activity areas and communicators in their shack groups.  Some of this leadership development is organic while some is intentional youth development through our Camp Runoia programming.

The Counselor In Training(CIT)  and subsequent Junior Counselor (JC) programs at Camp Runoia help High School aged campers focus on their own leadership development within the safe and supportive community in which they have often spent many summers.  Feeling comfortable and confident in a place that you know well is a perfect environment for challenging yourself.

Intentional leadership training provides opportunities for girls to build on their current skill set and also challenge themselves to go out of their comfort zone and try new skills too.  It includes formal training certification programs like archery instructor, lifeguard, first aid, CPR courses and the Junior Maine Guide programs.   Event planning and implementation for large groups is a big component for the CIT group- they manage the entire 4th of July festivities for the whole camp.  Helping out in shacks with younger campers, assisting in lessons and learning to manage a group, teach skills and keep track of performance are all just examples of putting leadership into action.  More informal opportunities exist when hanging out with younger girls and being a positive role model.

Within the CIT group leadership often comes in the form of collaborative decision making and group process.  It may be about finding your voice or learning when to be quiet to let someone else speak up.

Both the CIT and JC programs are designed to be a full summer experience so that young women can practice their new skills over time and grow into great camp leaders.  They take back home with them not only a stack of certificates and accomplishments but a greater sense of self, more confidence and skills that will be transferable into other aspects of their lives.



My Journey Through Camp – Anna’s Reflections

At the end of this past August, after seven summers of growth and memories, I was less than happy about the idea of leaving. Settling into the alternate universe of laughter and companionship -not to mention the notable absence of parents – only to be torn away and thrust back into the hectic lifestyle of the school year was not ideal. I had spent most of the summer hoping the day would never come. Unfortunately, the day arrived and all at once I was in the car heading down the street which had once led me to my second home, and was now tearing me away from it. Gazing into the rearview mirror at the entrance reminded me of the first time I’d driven down that very street- heading towards the gate, instead of away from it.

Anna Discovering Independence
Anna Discovering Independence

As a nine year old who had inherited the family heirloom of independence, which had been passed down through generations of women in my family, I had chosen Runoia myself. I was excited. My search for independence was temporarily fulfilled with the thrill of being away from home, and each summer, in an environment that encouraged individuality, I found more ways to become myself. During my second summer as a camper, I was horrified to hear that because of its weakened state, campers were no longer allowed to sit on the branches of the apple tree.


As this was an ancient artifact that I had become especially fond of, a friend and I promptly funneled our disappointment into a farewell poem called Ode to Apple Tree, which we read to the entire camp and still remains in the 2009 log.

The Apple Tree
The Apple Tree

This incident is only one example of how Runoia transcended its promise of exposing me to new people and skills, and went on to provide me with opportunities to express and improve the parts of me that already existed. Whether or not your child has the same sense of independence I had upon arrival, they will certainly gain more of it throughout their summers away from home.


Camp is a place for growth and while many people remember it as a place of newness -new skills, new friends, new foods- it is important to remember that the camp experience is also about the qualities we already possess.

The deeper benefit of being exposed to camp is that through these new experiences, I was allowed to sharpen and exercise the skills I already had. And so, in August, while I left camp unwillingly, I left empowered.

Runoia CIT program provides Leadership Growth
Anna and her CIT Group (Anna far right)

Anna is a graduate of the Camp Runoia Counselor-in-Training (CIT) program and spent her summers growing up at Camp Runoia.