The assumption for campers who are freshmen and sophomores in high school is that they’re faced with the tough decision of spending the summer at home strengthening their college applications through internships and coursework or having a carefree summer at camp. With college admissions being tougher than ever, the trend has quickly shifted away from camp. Over the past few summers, Manitou has been working toward creating a program that targets our high school-aged campers and counselors and provides opportunities for them to gain essential skills and become leaders in action. Beginning with the thirteen and fourteen year olds, our goal is to lay down the foundation for dedicated campers to become involved, passionate community members who possess the skill-set to be leaders both in and out of camp, and on their journey into adulthood.
CITs & Future CITs
Manitou’s oldest campers are referred to as the CITs (Counselors In Training). CITs are the most influential group of campers; most have been at camp for six or seven years and have thought endlessly about the potential impact they could have as CITs. When you ask a CIT what they are most looking forward to at camp, they will undoubtedly say to become a leader on their College League team. Each College League team consists of over a hundred campers and counselors. With the guidance of their deans, the CITs assume the responsibility of being role models for the entire team. CITs are charged with the tasks of addressing the team before every loop or meet, supporting the dean with organization and team morale, embracing younger campers so they feel welcome and part of something bigger than themselves, and working for five and a half weeks to make their team the most memorable experience they have been a part of. The High Seniors are campers who have just finished 9th grade. They are priming to be the next class of great CITs.
Hands on Experience
Throughout the past year, Camp Manitou has invested time and energy into developing a High Senior & CIT Leadership Program that puts campers into executive roles on large format projects. This summer’s first session project was the first ‘Tou 5K, and the second session project in the upcoming community outreach day at Pine Tree Camp.
In April, rising High Seniors & CITs met in New York City for the American Camping Association (ACA) Teen Leadership Conference and to kick off the 2014 Leadership Program. Through discussion about their values and goals, the group decided to create a new event in order to raise donations for one of Manitou’s non-profit organizations, Manitou Experience (part of Experience Camps for Grieving Boys). The event became the first ever ‘Tou 5K. To execute the race, the High Seniors & CITs organized themselves into committees that included Fundraising, Facility, Staffing, Entertainment, and Program. Everything from contacting parents and local vendors to budgeting and staffing to designing the course and registering runners the High Seniors & CITs took the lead on this project and saw it through completion. On Sunday, July 20th 60+ campers and 25+ staff completed the race to massive cheers at the waterfront. The event raised more than $5,000; enough to sponsor a full bunk at Manitou Experience. The ‘Tou 5K’s success has set a high bar for the incoming Leadership Program participants.
Learning to Lead
CITs and High Seniors are assigned, as mentors, to a younger camper cabin for the summer. They get to know the campers and experience “practice” time as a counselor for the bunk.
Along the same lines, they work in an activity area of interest – serving as an assistant instructor. The combination of skills that are taught and practiced in the Leadership program gives participants a tool kit of skills that will be helpful for high school, college, and beyond.
A second goal set in April was to participate in some community outreach in Maine. Our campers travel into the heart of Maine each summer to develop and grow; they felt it was important to give back to the local communities. On Wednesday, August 6th, the High Seniors & CITs will host a day of activities at Pine Tree Camp. Pine Tree Camp is an innovative barrier-free summer camp offering fully accessible recreation to Maine children and adults with physical and/or developmental disabilities. Manitou campers have designed a full schedule that includes mentorship and buddy time, organized activities that span from sports, music/drama, nature, and arts & crafts, and a bbq lunch. The Leadership Program is proud to facilitate this experience to our campers, and our campers are excited to bring a bit of Manitou Magic to some very special Maine campers.
Immediate & Tangible Skills
We also want our High Seniors & CITs to gain immediate, tangible skills that are important to have. Many of this year’s CITs were certified in CPR at camp and have participated in a Leadership Workshop designed around Michael Brandwein’s youth leadership model. We look forward to adding more certification and education opportunities for our older campers and young staff.
The Manitou High Senior & CIT Leadership Program is continuing to evolve to include more off-season opportunities, participation in Manitou Service Day, and greater reach for summer events. Manitou is very proud of the 2014 participants and feels confident they are heading home with real-world skills and experience in leadership and project management. Our boys should not have to decide between an internship and camp but rather be given the skills and experience to be successful.
- Josh P (current CIT), Stephen, and JD