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.
We live in complex and challenging times. But something happened in the last month that has given me hope for a saner, safer world: the Never Again movement that was born out of the Parkland, FL school shooting. What makes me hopeful is young people are leading this effort. They took it upon themselves to work together and take action on their convictions.
These teens took their grief, fear, and disillusionment and channeled it into action. They brought their courage, commitment, and resiliency to bear in speaking out with passion and conviction about the changes they want to see in the world. They are using their remarkable organizational skills to plan meetings with officials and media, holding rallies, and mobilizing walkouts. Most recently they spearheaded the “March For Our Lives” in more than 800 cities across the country. They have used their expertise with social media to communicate with peers around the world, inviting them to join this call to action. They have demonstrated their training in debate and public speaking, and the importance of having a clear and compelling message articulated with confidence and passion. They have shown gratitude to their teachers in their lives who have helped prepare them for this work. They are acting today and planning for tomorrow as they partner with adults, learn about the process of making change, and advocate for young people to register to vote and be a part of the democratic process. As Rebecca Schneid, a sixteen-year-old Parkland survivor said, “We understand that this is a marathon and that we’ll be fighting for years. We’re just getting started. Now we have to use our rights as voters to make things change.” It is amazing that these young people have done all of this in six weeks time and in a non-violent way.
There have been several articles comparing the Never Again movement to the Civil Rights movement in the ‘60s. Among the many similarities, this is a movement that has a groundswell of young people, committed to making the world a better place. I have not heard the words of Martin Luther King used, but I have to believe that the sentiment; “I have a dream…” rings true for this cause.
John F. Kennedy said, “We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through the darkness to a safe and sane future.” The young people of Parkland have lit the candle. I respect and admire them and I am hopeful that they will help us not only to have safer schools today, but to create a safer world for all of us and future generations. I wonder where this experience will lead them in their adult life.