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The Impact of Teen Volunteers As Camp Counselors

DSC01860Most of us are familiar with the need for our teens to become more independent, better communicators, and to develop good decision making skills.  A quick scan of the news headlines can really make one wonder about the future of our community, country, and world.  This post will help relieve your anxieties!  One of the ways that the Florida 4-H Program is successfully addressing this need is through our summer camp counselor program.  4-H Camp Counselors have the opportunity to learn valuable leadership skills while at the same time have a positive effect on the lives of many children. Counselors wear many hats during camp, sometimes serving in the role of a parent, role model, confidant, counselor, nurse, and mediator all in one day. The task of sharing the impact teen volunteers make as counselors was not very difficult since this is a role I have personally seen materialize while working as an 4-H extension educator. There is nothing more rewarding then to watch a child grow up starting out as a home sick camper, then developing into a confidence camper, and later becoming a responsible and dependable teen camp counselor.

A recent study in Wisconsin measuring the impact of being a camp counselor resulted in the following: Teens were asked “What is unique about being a counselor?” and “What skills have you develop as a result of serving as a counselor”? The top eight skills identified included (in order of ranking) leadership, people skills, communication, patience, responsibility, teamwork, problem solving, and planning. They also reported that this experience will help them prepare for their careers because of the skills they have learned (Forsythe, Matysik, and Nelson).

An individual study done on teens that have served as camp counselors in Leon County from 2005 – 2013 showed the top skills the teens gained by serving as a camp counselor were leadership, patience, how to work with kids, and cooperation. Several teens stated that their experience has helped them to decide on what to study in college as well as what career path they would like to pursue.  To bring it home and narrow the focus even more our Sr. Counselor application includes the following question: “How have you personally benefited from being a counselor?” All seven responses from our senior counselors can be summarized by the following statements:

“I’m more responsible and have made life long friendships”

“I have learned leadership skills and how to handle stressful situations”

“I’ve learned how to make campers have fun”

“It’s taught me how to communicate better and made me more outgoing”

“I was hired at my current job because I told my employee I was a camp counselor”

Research has clearly shown that the camp counselor experience provides an excellent opportunity for teens to gain leadership skills that are proven to build much needed life skills that will help them later in life.  To find out more about 4-H teen leadership programs, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office.  If you have skills or experiences to share with teens to help prepare them for a future career, consider becoming a 4-H Volunteer.  We offer a variety of volunteer roles based on your interests and schedule.

We hope you have enjoyed this month’s series on 4-H Summer Camp.  Next week, a new series on summer safety will begin as Yolanda Goode shares firework safety tips!   Your opinion matters to us- please take this short survey to provide feedback to help us improve this blog https://ufl.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_3gtLKjqia3F75QN.

PG

Author: Marcus Boston Jr. – marcusb@ufl.edu

Marcus serves as a 4-H Extension Agent for Leon County and places empahasis in programs in the areas of science, leadership development, and civic engagement..

Marcus Boston Jr.

Permanent link to this article: http://okaloosa.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/06/26/the-impact-of-teen-volunteers-as-camp-counselors/