CARE https://ecareforkids.org Center for Adolescent Research & Education Mon, 20 May 2019 20:52:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Unleashed: The Power of You — Alignment and Engagement, Part 1 https://ecareforkids.org/2019/05/unleashed-the-power-of-you-alignment-and-engagement-part-1/ https://ecareforkids.org/2019/05/unleashed-the-power-of-you-alignment-and-engagement-part-1/#respond Mon, 20 May 2019 20:52:54 +0000 http://ecareforkids.org/?p=47774 Dear Camp Counselor: This summer you will join, figuratively, with more than 320,000 staff working at some 2,400 accredited camps serving more than 7.4 million children nationwide (ACA, 2013). And, suffice it to say, this is the opportunity of a lifetime. Why? Because you will greatly influence young lives. And, in my opinion, there’s no...

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Dear Camp Counselor:

This summer you will join, figuratively, with more than 320,000 staff working at some 2,400 accredited camps serving more than 7.4 million children nationwide (ACA, 2013). And, suffice it to say, this is the opportunity of a lifetime.

Why? Because you will greatly influence young lives. And, in my opinion, there’s no greater gift than that.

Despite having developed orientation training materials for more than four decades, I still find it difficult to pinpoint exactly which messages and activities will prepare you to be the best you — to unleash the power that you have to positively affect the young people who will be in your care. For me, my work was always guided by the exhortation of an orientation guest speaker to “help kids feel lovable and capable.”

Powerful, if simple.

In reality, achieving those outcomes takes a lot of hard work and numerous inputs that result in other important constructs related to the summer camp experience. According to the American Camp Association (ACA), those include the following (Browne & Warner, 2019):

  • Opportunities for experiential learning and living
  • Meaningful interactions with camp staff, who are often people campers relate to
  • Meaningful interactions with peers, both in small group living and in collaborative activities
  • Camp activities that are fun and capture campers’ interests
  • Separation from the home environment, which was notable among people who attended overnight camp as children

Other outcomes studied during the 2018 season by the Center for Adolescent Research and Education (CARE) in collaboration with Coastal Carolina University center around leadership traits, such as independence, innovation, perceived competence, responsibility, social entrepreneurship, and teamwork (Wallace & Mischel, 2019).

Camp and Workforce Development

Though camp and workforce development may seem incongruous to you, a convincing — and growing — body of work suggests that they are not. As ACA President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Rosenberg pointed out in a November/December 2018 Camping Magazine column, “Imagine a fun college summer working at camp, where, as with any other internship, young adults gain knowledge, skills, and hands-on experience while making important connections for their future.”

He continued, “On a daily basis . . . staff members practice 21st-century skills that will be more valuable than ever in the new age.” He cited the World Economic Forum as highlighting the “top ten skills needed to thrive in 2020 and beyond,” which are collaborative problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, coordinating with others, emotional intelligence, judgment and decision-making, service orientation, negotiation, and cognitive flexibility.

Rosenberg went on to say, “Camp staff members are immersed in these skills and learn to teach them to their campers. In doing so, the . . . community becomes a self-motivated culture of learning and leadership . . . in which they not only seek to fulfill their own potential, but also choose to do it in a way that promotes positive change individually and globally. They learn to focus purposefully on why they do what they do . . . [and] adopt healthy habits and make meaningful contributions to the world and the future” (Rosenberg, 2018). A win-win if ever there was one.

But is that too melodramatic? Maybe not.

A January 2019 article in The New Yorker noted, “Your life choices aren’t just about what you want to do; they’re about who you want to be,” and quoted Steven Johnson, author of How We Got to Now, who explained that life’s most important choices “can’t be understood on a single scale.” The piece continued, “Suppose you’re offered two jobs: one at Partners in Health, which brings medical care to the world’s neediest people, and the other at Goldman Sachs. You must consider which option would be most appealing today, later this year, and decades from now; which would be preferable emotionally, financially, and morally; and which is better for you, your family, and society” (Rothman, 2019).

Good point.

The Power of Alignment

As potent as a summer camp job can be in preparing for career and life, it’s also possible — arguably certain — that the workforce, in turn, can inform your role this summer.

In fact, the pioneering work of George Labovitz, PhD, a former Boston University business professor, founder of Organizational Dynamics, Inc., and co-author of the book The Power of Alignment, provides a guide. I recently had an opportunity to sit down with him to talk about alignment and engagement. Here is what I learned.

Step One: The Main Thing

The main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing (as a former colleague of mine, Sherry Mernick, liked to remind camp staff).

What does that mean exactly? As a camp counselor it is critical that by the end of staff training you feel aligned with the mission, philosophy, and values of the organization for which you are working, and that you are ready to engage with all members of the community. While this may represent a shift in focus from yourself, your education, and your immediate family and friends, it nevertheless presents as an important prerogative for positive camper outcomes. It may very well also be highly correlated with your own job satisfaction and overall summer experience.

While each camp may differ in its articulation of the main thing, it’s safe to say that key ingredients likely relate to health, safety, fun, and learning.

Labovitz highlights the example of the US Department of Food and Agriculture, where the main thing was to “end hunger in this country.” Clear, precise, motivational.

So, what is your camp’s main thing? If you don’t know, it’s a good question to ask.

Step Two: Competence

Competence refers to having a clearly defined strategy and being able to deploy it effectively and quickly. Of course, to do so, you have to know what it is.

Camps that can articulate a transparent, compelling strategy are more likely than those that don’t to achieve their goals. While strategies may change over time and across circumstances, Labovitz says that typically if only 10 percent of the workforce knows what the strategy is, the organization is likely to be “misaligned.” Over time, just like a misaligned car, that organization may become hard to steer and unresponsive to change. Here he cites as an analog FedEx’s strategy of people, service, profit, with profit being the “dependent variable” (the value of which depends on that of another).

The translation? Employee engagement is key to alignment.

Step Three: Execution

The third and final step, unlike the main thing or the strategy, is reliant on the staff. In other words, strategies are executed at the bottom, not the top. This is called vertical alignment.

Vertical alignment is incredibly important in the military and in industries such as healthcare and commercial aviation, precisely because the price of misalignment is so high. The same could be said about the camp industry. As second-year counselor Adam Rosen, a student member of the national advisory board at CARE, told me, “When you’re charged with protecting parents’ most cherished asset, their child, a huge amount of trust is given from those parents to you.”

Indeed, safety first and safety always!

In a last word, Labovitz points out that, while three decades of empirical research reveals that aligned organizations outperform their competitors by every major financial measure, alignment may be hard to achieve. Pointing to tenets of social psychology, he says that human beings are not naturally collaborative but rather are more likely to look at others with suspicion.

As a case in point, he shared the story of a University of Michigan experiment that took place in an Ann Arbor, Michigan, ballroom where volunteers were given either a green hat or a red hat. Over time, people migrated to one side of the room or the other to join those with the same color hat. As Labovitz put it, “The green hat people don’t like what the red hat people are planning.”

The Power of Engagement

Another critical concept relevant to your success as a camp counselor is how engaged you are with your campers and fellow staff. Of course, one can be engaged but not in the best way. That’s where the positive role-modeling piece comes into play (or as I like to say, always do the right thing, even when no one is watching). Arguably, if all the counselors at your camp are aligned to its mission and willing to collaborate with others, engagement should be easy to come by.

But what about the kids?

Engaging effectively with them requires learning a little bit about them and understanding what expectations their parents have for their camp experience. It’s also helpful to identify what your campers’ expectations are. Then you can more effectively go about the task of building relationships with them.

Identifying Expectations and Building Relationships

Camp directors say that parents rated the following as the most important benefits of sending their children away for experiential learning: increasing self-esteem and self-confidence; making new friendships and getting along with others; offering fun activities; and providing a safe place. Other expectations identified among camp parents include communicating information; being a good role model; having fun with their kids; teaching fair play; discouraging foul language; being fair; and encouraging campers to try new things.

The kids’ expectations tend to be more basic, such as having fun, making friends, and feeling good about themselves.

Establishing positive relationships with your campers is, again, key to engagement. And doing so will require you to take some (positive) risks, such as opening yourself up to strangers and sharing parts of yourself.

An important thing to remember is that relationship building begins when the child arrives at camp, so you’ve got to be ready! To wit, Michael Pastore, author of the book Dynamite Counselors Don’t Explode, suggests that the first moment you meet a camper is one of the most important of the summer. That is because the camper will begin to immediately answer some important questions: Do you care about me? Are you on my side? Are we going to work and play together?

In social psychology parlance, this phenomenon speaks to primacy, or what happens first. Think now about what you want those answers to be.

Beginning with the End in Mind

Starting camp with clearly defined goals as to what you want to have accomplished by closing day is a good way to meet your own expectations — ones that can be shaped by true alignment and engagement, unleashing the power of you.

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Love and Leadership https://ecareforkids.org/2019/05/love-and-leadership/ https://ecareforkids.org/2019/05/love-and-leadership/#respond Mon, 20 May 2019 20:51:16 +0000 http://ecareforkids.org/?p=47771 With March upon us and Valentine’s Day, when we celebrate love of others, behind us, perhaps it makes sense to take note of a similarly powerful kind of love: leadership. When you love to lead, great accomplishment probably lies ahead. If nothing else, as the saying goes, “If you love what you do, you never...

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With March upon us and Valentine’s Day, when we celebrate love of others, behind us, perhaps it makes sense to take note of a similarly powerful kind of love: leadership.

When you love to lead, great accomplishment probably lies ahead. If nothing else, as the saying goes, “If you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life.”

As a psychologist with a strong affinity for working with youth, I can say that very thing.

Unfortunately, it seems that many in the rising generation of professionals may be lacking that special spark. A recent article in The New York Times, “Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work?” makes the point. Author Erin Griffith points to a “hustle culture … obsessed with striving, relentlessly positive, devoid of humor, and – once you notice it – impossible to escape.” She says, “Never once at the start of my workweek – not in my morning coffee shop line; not in my crowded subway commute; not as I begin my bottomless inbox slog – have I paused, looked to the heavens and whispered: #ThankGodIt’sMonday.”

Sad.

Griffith quotes David Heinemeier Hansson, co-founder of a software company and co-author of a book about creating healthy company cultures, It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work, as saying this culture is “grim and exploitive.” Griffith goes on to say, “It’s not difficult to view hustle culture as a swindle. After all, convincing a generation of workers to beaver away is convenient for those at the top.” In that vein, and referencing the notoriously demanding technology sector, she states, “Mr. Heinemeier Hansson said that despite data showing long hours improve neither productivity nor creativity, myths about overwork persist because they justify the extreme wealth created for a small group of elite techies.”

Cynical? Maybe not.

Cultural critic Anne Helen Peterson Griffith, in her BuzzFeed article about millennials, says they “are just desperately striving to meet their own high expectations. An entire generation was raised to expect that good grades and extracurricular overachievement would reward them with fulfilling jobs that feed their passions. Instead, they wound up with precarious, meaningless work and a mountain of student loan debt. And so posing as a rise-and-grinder, lusty for Monday mornings, starts to make sense as a defense mechanism.”

Similarly, New York Times columnist David Gelles, in his piece as guest editor of LinkedIn Daily Rundown about “loving your work, hating your work, and working with those you love,” says,“Most of us spend much of our time working, believing that it will make us money and that money will make us happy in the long run. But we’ve got it all wrong, argues Harvard Business School professor Ashley Whillins. Research consistently shows that the happiest people use their money to buy time. ‘People who are willing to give up money to gain more free time – by, say, working fewer hours or paying to outsource disliked tasks – experience more fulfilling social relationships, more satisfying careers, and more joy, and overall, live happier lives …’” 

But maybe the key to happiness is not just time, but rather the sentiment reflected in the tale end of Gelles’ post – working with those you love.

In that vein, and possibly reflecting a much welcome shift for Generation Z, sixteen-year-old Eli Waldman shared his story as a young man finding passion in helping others and learning to love and lead:

As a high school student approaching the college application process, I am struck by the barrage of requirements to show leadership experience. Colleges want to see – in addition to top grades, rigorous classes and stellar ACT scores – that applicants demonstrate leadership ability. This perpetual and often annoying message got me thinking – what exactly is leadership? Is it being the captain of the lacrosse team or debate team, president of the student government association? Is being the chosen head of a particular club or activity the only way to demonstrate leadership?

So many questions, so few answers.

What I do know is that high school is hard enough if you’re born here. Now imagine the challenge of navigating it without any language or cultural context. For two years I observed the High Intensity Language Training (HILT) students (newly arrived immigrants) at my school maneuver the hallways and lunchroom alone – virtually a community unto their own. How can they be expected to integrate and feel welcome and included when there are few opportunities for them to mingle with mainstream students?

What started as a ninth grade English class group final project became the first club at Yorktown High School that brings HILT and native English speaking students together for afterschool and weekend activities. Our assignment was to address a global issue that is reflected within our own community and offer a viable solution. We observed that the polarization of civil discourse in this country and our community has made it increasingly difficult for people to connect with those who live outside their own cultural frame of reference. Many tend to retreat inward to our own socioeconomic and cultural communities rather than reaching out to those who are different. Sadly, our school’s lunchroom offered an example of this schism. While the assignment only tasked us to draft a project, we decided to take it one step further and actually implement it. Many steps and years later, we officially launched the Arlington Student Amalgamation Program (ASAP) in the fall of 2018.

You cannot force friendship, but you can forge friendships by creating opportunities for students to interact in a comfortable environment in which both parties are at ease.  

Depending on the season, we play soccer or board games together after school. And the best part of this club is that no one is the leader. Or perhaps we are all the leaders. I now have friends in school from South America, France and the Middle East. And while I might not have classes with them, I see them in the hallways and sit with them at lunch. My friends and I are helping them with their English and they are teaching us about their native countries and cultures. I am not trying to play the role of mentor or role model and I’m not looking to teach, instruct or guide. We are just friends. 

So I guess I do have an answer. Being a leader is being your authentic self: it’s loving who you are, where you come from and owning your story without feeling threatened by differences in others. Being a leader is not about exerting influence, power or even a loud voice. It’s about making room at the table so everyone has a chance to shine. It’s having the courage to be yourself and do what feels right to you, whether that’s standing up for something you believe in, helping a friend in need or admitting that you don’t have all the answers.

An answer, indeed.

Love and leadership as a recipe for fulfillment and success.

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The Last Batch of Muffins https://ecareforkids.org/2019/05/the-last-batch-of-muffins/ https://ecareforkids.org/2019/05/the-last-batch-of-muffins/#respond Mon, 20 May 2019 20:46:07 +0000 http://ecareforkids.org/?p=47768 My congratulatory handshake to colleague Jake Labovitz, who along with his wife, Kerry, owns Windsor Mountain Summer Camp in Windsor, New Hampshire, was commentary on a highly successful season. Jake’s reply? “Thanks, but you’re only as good as your last batch of muffins.” What Jake was referring to is called “recency” — most recent —...

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My congratulatory handshake to colleague Jake Labovitz, who along with his wife, Kerry, owns Windsor Mountain Summer Camp in Windsor, New Hampshire, was commentary on a highly successful season. Jake’s reply? “Thanks, but you’re only as good as your last batch of muffins.”

What Jake was referring to is called “recency” — most recent — or what happens last. For context, “Social psychologists study how social influence, social perception, and social interaction influence individual and group behavior” (APA, 2018).

Influence, perception, and interaction: Each is a key component of the camp experience.

Perhaps chief among these is perception, as it is likely that a child’s reflection on his or her time at camp will drive the decision on whether or not to return.

Consistent with this premise are the well-known words of Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” (Gal, 2018).

Which brings us back to the muffins — or at least to recency. The power of recency is that it captures the last recollections of personal experience. If the last batch of muffins on closing day, for example, were cold and mushy, perhaps we didn’t finish our job.

The lesson? The sports analog would be “Leave it all on the field!” If you give everything, there will be no questions about what you could or might have done (Mead, 2018).

Next up is the related concept of “primacy,” or what happens first! “The first impression is the lasting impression” — we’ve heard it before. But do we always remember these important constructs when planning for opening day and our campers’ actual experiences? It’s worth thinking about.

So if primacy and recency hold such sway, what happens in between?

In their book, The Power of Moments, Chip and Dan Heath explain why certain experiences can have extraordinary impact — they call them “defining moments” — and offer up a recipe, if you’ll pardon the pun, to bake them into your campers’ (and counselors’) time at camp. You might think of them as magical moments and you can encourage staff to create, and report on, them weekly.

At Windsor Mountain, Jake and Kerry’s nephew, Adam, then age 13, found many such moments, telling me, “When I get to camp I feel welcomed. I’m in this great community of people and everyone, even people I’ve never met before, is happy to see me. There are new activities every day, spontaneous, fresh, and exciting. One summer I took a pottery class for the first time ever. After some trial and error I threw a small bowl that we now use at home. I’ve accomplished things at camp I never knew I could do, and I am thankful for those experiences. I leave camp confident, calm, and ready to meet the challenges of the year ahead.”

Isn’t that kind of the point?

The Heath brothers maintain that defining moments are often chance opportunities, such as a new teacher who spots a talent you did not know you had. While such moments seem to be the result of fate or luck, they can be intentionally created.

That is good news and what camp is all about: Intentionality.

Engineering these moments, the Heaths say, requires an understanding of their elements (Heath and Heath, 2017).

  1. Elevation: They rise above the everyday experience.
  2. Insight: They redefine our understanding of oneself in the world.
  3. Pride: They reflect moments of achievement and courage.
  4. Connection: They are social and strengthened because we share them with others.

The Heaths offer that defining moments necessarily line up with at least one of those four metrics.

The Power of Moments also speaks to what are referred to as “fresh start” experiences and a cautionary tale about customer service: it’s OK to make mistakes or fall short of the mark because, “Business leaders who can spot their customers’ moments of dissatisfaction and vulnerability — and take decisive actions to support those customers — will have no trouble differentiating themselves from competitors.”

While no one is suggesting we strive to fail, we can keep our eyes open for opportunities to admit mistakes or misjudgments and to take corrective action.

Primacy, recency, and all that falls in the middle keep summer camps in the forefront of experiential education.

Bring on the muffins!

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Let’s Be Friends : Celebrating national mentoring month. https://ecareforkids.org/2019/05/lets-be-friends-celebrating-national-mentoring-month/ https://ecareforkids.org/2019/05/lets-be-friends-celebrating-national-mentoring-month/#respond Mon, 20 May 2019 20:43:52 +0000 http://ecareforkids.org/?p=47764 As we round out National Mentoring Month, it’s a good time to take stock of the many positive outcomes of these important relationships, maybe especially those of the peer-to-peer variety. During my fifteen-plus years at the helm of, arguably, America’s largest youth peer-to-peer education, prevention, and activism organization, I saw firsthand the remarkable capacity young people have...

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As we round out National Mentoring Month, it’s a good time to take stock of the many positive outcomes of these important relationships, maybe especially those of the peer-to-peer variety.

During my fifteen-plus years at the helm of, arguably, America’s largest youth peer-to-peer education, prevention, and activism organization, I saw firsthand the remarkable capacity young people have to create meaningful change among their friends, in their schools and communities and across the land—so much so that I decided to launch a national study on informal mentoring in order to provide much-needed data to stand beside those collected about more formal, or matched, mentoring.

What does the latter look like?

study by Child Trends, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization providing social science research to those who serve children and youth found the following (Jekielek et al, 2002).

  • Youth participating in mentoring programs had fewer unexcused absences from school than did similar youth not participating in these programs.
  • Youth in mentoring programs were less likely to initiate drug use.
  • Youth who were mentored had significantly more positive attitudes toward school and the future.

Good stuff.

My study revealed similar outcomes from more informal approaches, including a higher sense of self that, in turn, tends to spawn positive identityformation, growing independence and better relationships with peers.

Teens with mentors are also significantly more likely than those without mentoring to report frequently feeling happy (94 percent versus 86 percent) and less likely to report regularly feeling depressed (24 percent versus 31 percent) or bored (66 percent versus 75 percent). They are also significantly more likely to challenge themselves by taking positive risks (Wallace, 2008).

Compelling examples of peer-to-peer mentoring can be found in the remarkable journey of Eli Waldman, a sixteen-year-old high school junior in Virginia. He shared details with me by way of email and essay.

Here’s what he had to say.

I’ve been meaning to tell you about something exciting that my friends and I have been working on. We just launched a new club at our school – it’s called the Arlington Student Amalgamation Program (ASAP). My school has a significant population of immigrant students, who are in the HILT (high intensity language training) program. They do not take classes with mainstream students and are unfortunately not integrated socially with other students. It’s been really sad and frustrating to see this, particularly in the lunchroom where no one makes efforts to include, welcome or be nice to them. So we started a club that is offering afterschool and weekend activities for these non-native English-speaking students and non-HILT students to meet and hang out and have fun with each other. Laser tag, bowling, movies – these are some of the activities we will be sponsoring.

But that’s not all.

In his essay “The Magic of Cross-Age Peer Mentoring,” Eli told me about his youth support group.

For four years, I have been mentoring elementary school children who, like me, have celiac and food allergies. When I was in eighth grade, I decided to launch two Celiac and Food Allergy Support Groups after learning that an increasing number of local children were being diagnosed with serious food allergies. I had a feeling that these kids would enjoy spending time with other kids with similar dietary and lifestyle restrictions. But I had no idea how impactful the hours we spent together would be for them. And I was skeptical that parents and school administrators would support my concept of a no-parent, no-teacher, no-adult space during our sessions. It was and remains just the kids and me. And it turns out that this is indeed the magic ingredient.

It’s like for the very first time I’m with kids who speak the same language as me.  — Nate T., 5th grade

My hunch was that kids would learn more from other kids who have the same condition than from a parent or adult who does not. I start each monthly session with a specific discussion topic, such as label reading, ordering at restaurants, surviving food in classrooms, birthday parties, play dates, summer camp and Halloween.

Our hour-long sessions begin with basic problem solving. How do you politely decline the homemade brownies that a friend’s parents insist are allergen-free yet you suspect are contaminated? While questioning adults, particularly the parent of a friend, is relatively easy for older teens, it feels disrespectful and wrong to most children. This is where role-playing becomes a useful and fun tool to get them engaged, even the shyest among them. A typical scenario involves me playing the kid and a kid playing the adult role. I start by displaying the absolute most outrageously rude behavior a kid could have. This invariably elicits laughter from the kids and shouts of “No, no, no – that’s not a good way to communicate.” We then switch roles and they propose more appropriate ways to decline. And, voilà, we have kid-driven, practical, realistic solutions. We have confidence, support, camaraderie, fun and laughs.

Trust is the most important factor in our group. It makes me feel safe and comfortable. I feel so much better talking to other kids about food allergies because they know exactly what it is like and how it affects me. – Nicholas S., 4th grade

Regardless of the topic we discuss, my overarching goal is to empower the kids with the tools and confidence to advocate for themselves in their classrooms and communities. The beauty of cross-age peer mentoring is that it sends children the message that they have the ability to help each other and don’t need to always rely on parents or teachers. The answers, the instincts, the ability – all are within them. Nothing is more empowering and gratifying than being able to offer advice on how to navigate the lunchroom or order at a restaurant. They learn how to listen to each other and discuss sensitive feelings.

These children are also learning how to become leaders. Before you can advocate for others or a cause, you need to know how to advocate for yourself. These kids are learning the importance of putting their own healthfirst and of not succumbing to pressure to try a food that they aren’t confident is safe. Learning to be comfortable saying no to certain foods at a young age will better prepare them as teens to say no to drugs and alcoholand to resist peer pressure.

Each session, I can count on at least one kid coming out of his/her shell. Suddenly, even the kids who are naturally hesitant to participate light up when one of their peers describes a recent challenge and then offers suggestions and helpful advice. The third-grade girl, who for months has been wordlessly nodding in agreement, shares her own unique coping strategy for eating safely at a friend’s birthday party. There is a palpable surge of energy in the room as animated kids excitedly offer advice on how to manage situations like these. Smiles, laughter, sighs, and high fives – this is work in progress.

These are the moments when I sit back, observe, and experience a sense of triumph like no other. This is what happens when you give kids the space to feel safe and in control.

Confidence, support, camaraderie, fun, and laughs, indeed. Eli’s work brings to life the “power of presence” (Hall, 2005), something certainly worth celebrating—and better yet, emulating.

So, as National Mentoring Month comes to a close, let’s be friends!

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Rethinking Summer: Why Camp Remains Relevant for Teens https://ecareforkids.org/2019/01/rethinking-summer-why-camp-remains-relevant-for-teens/ https://ecareforkids.org/2019/01/rethinking-summer-why-camp-remains-relevant-for-teens/#respond Mon, 21 Jan 2019 20:05:49 +0000 http://ecareforkids.org/?p=47759 Stephen Gray Wallace, MS Ed, and Leann Mischel, PhDJanuary 2019 In a world filled with out-of-school time options for young adults, new research from the Center for Adolescent Research and Education (CARE) in collaboration with Coastal Carolina University points to the enduring, and positive, outcomes of leadership training for teens in both traditional and specialty...

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Stephen Gray Wallace, MS Ed, and Leann Mischel, PhDJanuary 2019

In a world filled with out-of-school time options for young adults, new research from the Center for Adolescent Research and Education (CARE) in collaboration with Coastal Carolina University points to the enduring, and positive, outcomes of leadership training for teens in both traditional and specialty camp settings.

What are they?

According to the responses of youth ages 14–17, their camp experiences yielded significant leadership-related gains in such areas as personal growth, independence, innovation, responsibility, teamwork, and business and social entrepreneurship.

Wow!

Threshold Experiences

“‘In the beginning,’ so goes many a great story. These familiar words beckon us across a threshold, often transporting us into unknown worlds and novel experiences. So too our lives are filled with many such ‘beginnings’ — new jobs, relationships, adventures, and even the inception of life itself. Each of these ‘threshold experiences’ not only introduces us to new domains, but also draws us into the realities of archetypal fields. Learning to creatively interact with these prefigured, a priori fields can allow us rich access to sources of eternal wisdom” (Conforti, 2007).

As young people navigate transition, such as from middle to high school and high school to college, they sometimes experience difficulties, doubting their own abilities to successfully set and achieve goals, be they social, emotional, educational, or vocational. Helping youth in transition has been a key focus of CARE and of The Jed Foundation (JED), which says, “Transitioning into adulthood can bring big changes and intense challenges. JED empowers teens and young adults with the skills and support to grow into healthy, thriving adults” (The Jed Foundation, 2018).

In many ways, such transitions may include “threshold experiences,” or “threshold concepts.” According to Jan Meyer and Ray Land of the ETL Project (which focuses on enhancing teaching-learning environments), “A threshold concept can be considered as akin to a portal, opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something. It represents a transformed way of understanding, or interpreting, or viewing something without which the learner cannot progress” (Meyer & Land, 2003).

Threshold concepts are many things, including troublesome (especially when counterintuitive or alien), irreversible (they cannot be unlearned), integrative (individuals can integrate new concepts with old knowledge), and liminal (giving the individual new space to traverse). Perhaps most notably, they can be transformative, allowing the individual to see things in new ways (Meyer & Land, 2003).

Sarah Doenmez, academic dean at Dublin High School in New Hampshire and author of a recent article published by the National Association of Independent Schools, explains, “Learning thresholds are often the points at which students experience difficulty and are often troublesome as they require a letting go of customary ways of seeing things, of prior familiar views. This entails an uncomfortable ontological shift as, in many respects, we are what we know.”

Doenmez goes on to say, “As educators, we tacitly understand liminality as part of the learning process. And yet we probably leave it up to our students to deal with the discomfort of liminality on their own or gloss over it. Often teachers encourage students to minimize their uncertainty and confusion, exhorting them to show grit, to push through this stage to a resolution . . . Students must dwell in the discomfort and find their own routes to a next stage of understanding. As teachers, we need to affirm the feelings students experience, create time and exercises for them to make sense of their experience, encourage persistence, and reward them for the process of learning. We also need to help students see their progress and voice the changes they are undergoing. When we legitimize and value their struggles and walk with them through these passages, we are helping students undergo transformation” (Doenmez, 2018).

How else can we, as summer teachers, help young people through these transformative times?

Paul Jacquiery, a middle school teacher and a seasoned camp dad (who introduced us to the concept of threshold experiences), has some ideas. He wrote in an email, “Trips and adventures at Farm and Wilderness Camp changed the internal narrative from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can’ for both my children, Ali and Erin. For Ali, swimming the perimeter of Lake Ninevah together with friends redefined what was achievable. Erin’s group worked tirelessly to climb several peaks in the Green Mountains. Returning home, it was easier to take the lead at school and to contextualize their challenges. The foundation for being a middle school president (Ali) and team captain (Erin) was rooted in those camp experiences in Vermont.”

Also helpful to those mentoring youth is JED’s focus on basic life skills, social and emotional skills, and mental health/substance abuse literacy. Each suggests key challenges and the need for assistance and support. They also form the basis for JED’s new “Set to Go” initiative, a curriculum that helps high school students successfully navigate their next step after graduation (Set to Go, 2018a).

Such skills can also be addressed in camp curriculum created intentionally with teens in mind. JED says of life skills, “There are many important lessons kids need to learn while growing up which are not taught in a classroom. As they mature, kids typically get better at handling their physical needs like sleep and nutrition; their organizational needs like managing their time and daily activities; and managing their ‘stuff’ (including clothes, managing money, etc.). We know that young people who go to college or live on their own lacking in these basic skills can have a harder time with the transition and might even be at higher risk for emotional problems.”

With regard to the development of social and emotional skill sets, JED advises, “Everyone has an array of thoughts, feelings, and relationships with others. As children grow up, these thoughts, feelings, and relationships develop and mature. These qualities will have a profound impact on our lives — especially as young people transition into independent life at college or adulthood in general. These developing qualities . . . include things like: identifying our emotions, knowing our values, self-esteem, resilience and grit, and relating to others.”

Finally, with regard to mental health/substance abuse literacy, JED offers, “During the teen and young adult years, it is not uncommon for emotional and substance use problems to appear. Therefore, it is really valuable for both you and your child to be able to identify the factors that can support emotional health and the indications that trouble may be emerging” (Set to Go, 2018b).

Program Innovation and Implementation

Similar themes appeared in our work with Camp Rising Sun (CRS) to analyze data they collected from campers over the course of many summers. In our 2015 Camping Magazine article “The Consequence of Character: How Summer Camp Promotes Character, Leadership, and Entrepreneurship,” we cited that data and reported the following.

“In assessing the impact — across multiple domains of development — of a seven-week selective international leadership program for gifted adolescent boys and girls, CRS found that experiential learning about leadership, diversity, and sensitivity to the needs of others resulted in important personal advances in tolerance, global awareness, self-confidence, sensitivity, relationships, and development of lifelong interests” (Mischel & Wallace, 2015).

We also pointed out that our own data revealed the relationship between leadership and civic engagement, stating, “There is no question that youth today are exercising leadership through civic engagement. That reveal comes in the work of young adults to improve their lives, families, schools, and communities — often through entrepreneurial behavior directed at helping others.”

That research, conducted by SurveyTelligence, Inc. for CARE, noted the work of youth social entrepreneurs who present as both oriented on people and values, sharing with their business entrepreneur counterparts an ability to identify the resources to get things done. The findings also revealed key variables statistically tied to entrepreneurial interest and behavior, including having family responsibility in childhood (such as household chores and taking care of younger siblings) and receiving information from elders.

Not insignificantly, the traits of both social and business entrepreneurs — taken in totality — represent the type of “noncognitive skills” employers say they are looking for, such as civic literacy and global competence (P21, 2018).

Leadership Outcomes at Summer Camp

According to the American Camp Association (ACA), “For more than 150 years, camp has been changing lives — allowing all children to feel successful, especially those who may struggle with traditional educational settings. Camp is full of fun and excitement, but it is so much more — developing children who are better equipped to lead in the 21st century with skills such as independence, empathy, the ability to work as part of a team, and a broader world view.” ACA adds that camps are also safe, nurturing places where children improve their social skills and gain self-confidence (American Camp Association, 2018).

Indeed, our 2015 data indicated, “Study participants who attended a summer camp were significantly more likely to state an interest in social entrepreneurship than those who had not attended. Why? They cited the influence of counselors, especially in mentoring them to develop social and leadership skills; assisting them in obtaining social and material resources to start new projects; and guiding them in understanding such projects and identifying other mentors. Young people who had started their own businesses or were highly interested in doing so were especially influenced by camp counselors who taught them how to gather resources needed to achieve goals” (Mischel & Wallace, 2015).

Data collected from more than 100 youth attending two summer camp leadership programs during the 2018 season provided some interesting insights. For example, campers believed that, as a result of their leadership training, they gained a better understanding of their own skills and how to manage themselves and others. They also identified themselves as more entrepreneurial in business and more inclined to engage in social entrepreneurship. Finally, they indicated they were more competent, independent, and team-oriented.

These outcomes confirm that summer camps produce better leaders.

Activities that promote such outcomes include counselors allowing campers to take on additional responsibilities (through leadership roles and team-building exercises) and encouraging the campers to reflect on those experiences throughout their stay. Campers might take part in sharing skills they know and teaching them to others, or they may be challenged to complete a physical or mental task they thought was not possible. Camp experiences should expose individuals to new challenges and stretch their abilities to go beyond their comfort zones. In doing this, campers increase their confidence levels and their ability to work with others in a team.

One 17-year-old told us, “Through this leadership program I learned how to put myself out there, contributing to the group discussion and decision-making. It also taught me responsibility and fairness, after all, I played a big part in all of the decisions regarding the girls in my resident unit, the activities they would do, and the best approach to the more adult conversations we had to have with them. Whatever mistake may have come from my actions, I had to be absolutely the one to fix it, and that taught me a lot about taking charge of a task and taking responsibility if something goes wrong. I learned how to work around other people’s needs and problems and how to make more effective compromises, both in working with other people and in managing my time.”

The Entrepreneurial Camper

Robert Glazer, founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners and a guest writer for entrepreneur.com, also reflects on the leadership traits promoted by the summer camp environment. He explains, “There are many practical benefits to camp that my wife and I have seen firsthand. Our children have gained leadership skills and independence at camp. They’ve learned self-advocacy and become more responsible. In fact, they’ve learned many of the same skills that entrepreneurs and emerging leaders need to be successful.” Here are a few of the most important (Glazer, 2018):

  • Take responsibility for your actions.
  • Get out of your comfort zone.
  • Focus on values and expectations.
  • Practice leadership.
  • Make time for relationship-building.

A Responsibility for Relevancy

Camp owners and directors bear huge responsibility for “delivering the goods” by way of impactful summer learning experiences, perhaps uniquely for teens whose parents may have other ideas in mind.

For them, rethinking summer can hold real, and tangible, potential.

As Glazer remarks in his aforementioned article, “Friends from outside New England sometimes look shocked when I tell them my three kids are spending the summer at a sleepaway camp in the Maine woods. ‘You send your kids away for seven weeks? Don’t you like them?’ . . . I am confident their time at camp will pay off. Learning to make friends, take responsibility, make decisions, take risks, and lead teams will give them a step up and critical leadership skills for whatever they choose to do.”

Glazer affirms, “Leadership is a tough job, and tough jobs take practice. Camp has given my kids the chance to practice making decisions and handling the consequences — experiences they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.”

That is why camp remains relevant for teens.

Photo courtesy of Camp Common Ground, Oakland, California.

References

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Let the Kids Sleep, Part III 34 minutes bring a world of good. https://ecareforkids.org/2019/01/let-the-kids-sleep-part-iii-34-minutes-bring-a-world-of-good/ https://ecareforkids.org/2019/01/let-the-kids-sleep-part-iii-34-minutes-bring-a-world-of-good/#respond Mon, 21 Jan 2019 20:04:10 +0000 http://ecareforkids.org/?p=47756 In my preceding Psychology Today pieces, “Let the Kids Sleep” (February 2016) and “Let the Kids Sleep, Part II” (March 2017), I pointed out what may be obvious for parents of teens: along with anticipated biological changes of adolescence affecting mood and emotions comes a rather dramatic, and for some surprising, change in sleep patterns. Bottom line: teens need more sleep...

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In my preceding Psychology Today pieces, “Let the Kids Sleep” (February 2016) and “Let the Kids Sleep, Part II” (March 2017), I pointed out what may be obvious for parents of teens: along with anticipated biological changes of adolescence affecting mood and emotions comes a rather dramatic, and for some surprising, change in sleep patterns. Bottom line: teens need more sleep (think exhausting brain recalibration) and different schedules (more nocturnal than diurnal).

The ramifications of this seemingly innocuous shift are actually of great import, changing outcomes involving drivingmental health, school attendance, and academic performance. Just ask any teen you might know.

Here’s what some had to say.

“No matter how early I wake up for class, I always have to rush to make it there on time.”

“The weather today is for sleeping, not for going to school.”

“My mom doesn’t understand that I need to sleep in the extra five minutes …”

“Dear kindergarten children, if you don’t like nap time please give it to us. Sincerely, High Schoolers.”

I feel their pain.

So do parents. Those commenting on a petition titled “Start School Later – Healthy Hours” included the following.

  • Some of our middle school and high school children in our community get on the bus as early as 5:50 a.m. for a 7:10 start. Our school board thinks this is ok. They wonder why our test scores have dropped since they started this nonsense 3 years ago … our football team didn’t win a single game this past season. 
  • Since we have returned from overseas and my son has started at River Hill High School, adjusting to the start time of High School has taken its toll on not only the student but the whole family. He has gone from an A student to a struggling student. He is constantly tired, depressed and retention is significantly hampered. Common sense indicates that none of this is beneficial for our son, or any teenager for that matter.

An article by Ruthann Richter, director of media relations for Stanford Medical School’s Office of Communication and Public Affairs, states, “Sleep deprivation increases the likelihood teens will suffer myriad negative consequences, including an inability to concentrate, poor grades, drowsy driving incidents, anxietydepression, thoughts of suicide and even suicide attempts” (Richter, 2015).

She offers a compelling case-in-point.

“Carolyn Walworth, 17, often reaches a breaking point around 11 p.m., when she collapses in tears. For 10 minutes or so, she just sits at her desk and cries, overwhelmed by unrelenting school demands. She is desperately tired and longs for sleep. But she knows she must move through it, because more assignments in physics, calculus or French await her. She finally crawls into bed around midnight or 12:30 a.m.

“The next morning, she fights to stay awake in her first-period U.S. history class, which begins at 8:15. She is unable to focus on what’s being taught, and her mind drifts. ‘You feel tired and exhausted, but you think you just need to get through the day so you can go home and sleep,’ said the Palo Alto, California, teen. But that night, she will have to try to catch up on what she missed in class. And the cycle begins again.

“‘It’s an insane system … The whole essence of learning is lost,’ she said” (Richter, 2015).

What do the sleep experts say?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Teens need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function best. Most … do not get enough sleep – one study found that only 15 percent reported sleeping 8 1/2 hours on school nights.” That is important because critical processing, restoration and strengthening happen during sleep (NSF, 2018).

No doubt.

Yet, more than half of teens themselves (52 percent) report they get less than six hours of sleep on weeknights. That may come as a surprise to their parents, the majority of whom (61 percent) believe their kids are getting enough rest (Wallace, 2015a).

So what is impeding this biological imperative? Young people point to the following.

  • Busy schedule (extracurricular, school, etc.) – 43 percent
  • Staying up late completing homework – 32 percent
  • Social activities – 24 percent
  • Work – 20 percent

Parents might add social media, texting and video games.

Sounds dire, but a simple – if somewhat complicated – remedy seems to be in the offing: later school start times.

While that may seem an easy fix, others beg to differ. In her TIME magazine article “Why Schools Are Struggling to Let Students Sleep In,” Alexandra Sifferlin quotes a Temecula, California, school administrator as saying, “We wanted to change, but ultimately we couldn’t.” She cites such snags as parents’ needing to get to work and intransigent school bus schedules (Sifferlin, 2016).

Change is hard. But change is necessary.

To wit, University of Minnesota data collected from more than 9,000 students at eight high schools in Minnesota, Colorado, and Wyoming whose schools had made this shift noted the incalculable benefits of making such adjustments. The study revealed that when schools started at 8:30 a.m. or later, teenagers reported lower rates of depression and substance use, fewer car crashes, less absenteeism and tardiness, and higher test scores.

In November 2015, the Seattle (Washington) School Board voted to require city high schools to move start times from 7:50 to 8:45 a.m., making it one of the largest districts in the country to implement the change (Cornwell, 2015).

A deeper dive into the outcomes of that decision is documented in a recent NPR article, “Sleepless No More in Seattle – Later School Start Time Pays Off for Teens.” The research, conducted by the University of Washington, demonstrated that students whose schools changed their starting time from 7:50 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. – more in line with natural sleep cycles of adolescents – slept an additional 34 minutes, increasing “total nightly sleep from 6 hours and 50 minutes to 7 hours and 24 minutes” (Neighmond, 2018).

That longer, and improved, sleep duration yielded some pretty persuasive results, including better school attendance records and better academic performance.

The study’s senior author, Horacio de la Iglesia, explained, “‘Getting a little extra sleep in the morning can be vital for teens. They fall asleep later than older adults and young kids.’” He offers that an adolescent’s biological bedtime is close to midnight and says if parents expect them to go to sleep earlier, “‘They’ll just lay in bed and not fall asleep.’”

Of the difference, their teachers had a lot to say. Cindy Jatul, a biology teacher, stated, “‘When we started at 7:50 a.m. there would always be stragglers who were having a hard time getting here,’” noting that many were groggy. She continued, “‘For example, if I gave them a project in the lab, they would be the most likely class to mess up.’”

Science teacher A.J. Kataeoff reported, “‘There was lots of yawning’ when school started at 7:50 a.m. Students had a hard time engaging in the work or in brief discussions … ‘Some of the best practices in science educationhave students talk, discuss and investigate together and those are all very hard when the brain is not fully powered …’” (Neighmond, 2018).

The same article points out that in 2014 the American Academy of Pediatrics delivered a policy statement recommending that school districts change start times to 8:30 a.m. or later (Owens, 2014). Sounds good. But the National Center for Education Statistics revealed that only 17 percent of public middle and high schools have done so … leading to the question, Why not?

After all, 34 minutes bring a world of good.

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Internship, Test Prep — or Camp? – Summer Planning amid the Noise and Haste https://ecareforkids.org/2018/11/internship-test-prep-or-camp-summer-planning-amid-the-noise-and-haste/ https://ecareforkids.org/2018/11/internship-test-prep-or-camp-summer-planning-amid-the-noise-and-haste/#respond Sat, 17 Nov 2018 22:07:53 +0000 http://ecareforkids.org/?p=47742 “Go placidly amid the noise and haste” marks the beginning of a 1927 prose poem, “Desiderata,” by American writer Max Ehrmann. A copy of this well-known piece, the Latin translation of which is “things wanted or needed,” hangs in the reception area at Cape Cod Sea Camps and amplifies not only the sometimes-tumultuous nature of...

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“Go placidly amid the noise and haste” marks the beginning of a 1927 prose poem, “Desiderata,” by American writer Max Ehrmann. A copy of this well-known piece, the Latin translation of which is “things wanted or needed,” hangs in the reception area at Cape Cod Sea Camps and amplifies not only the sometimes-tumultuous nature of summer camp, but also, most likely, the process of getting there in the first place.

Why might that be the case?

Simply because of the sheer number of programmatic options for teens and young adults: potential campers and counselors, one and all.

According to TeenLife Media (TLM), which connects students, parents, and educators with experiential learning opportunities outside the classroom, such programs help youth do better in school, during the all-important college admissions process and, ultimately, in their adult lives.

Thus, how students choose to spend their summer breaks is extraordinarily consequential.

The Options

Although it’s hard to quantify all the potential choices young people have, TeenLife has identified more than 13,000 experiences for those in grades seven–12. They include the following (TLM, 2018):

  • Summer programs such as sports camps, art and theatre camps, academic summer sessions, high school science summer programs, and study abroad opportunities
  • Gap-year programs, including work internships, premed programs, and adventure trips
  • Volunteer commitments with nonprofits or community-service organizations
  • STEM-based curriculum
  • Performing and visual arts programs
  • Therapeutic schools and therapies
  • College and university-based academic opportunities (including ones related to enrichment, athletics, math and science, diversity, languages, faith, coding, humanities, journalism, science, investigative reporting, and environmental health sciences
  • Tutoring and test prep

Sorting for the Summer

While parents and, in some cases, professional consultants guide young people in the sifting and sorting of options, many have their eyes firmly focused on preventing summer learning loss and enhancing skills that one day will infuse the employability of college graduates, including — but not limited to — the development of “soft, critical thinking” capacity encapsulating the constructs of communication, collaboration, and creativity (Wallace, 2016).

The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) is a national, nonprofit organization focused on the powerful impact of one achievable goal: investing in summer learning to help close the achievement gap. Rightly so, NSLA also provides an important lens through which we can learn about, and build programming that addresses, summer learning loss.

HuffPost piece on the topic raises the question, “Can ‘Summer Slide’ Be Prevented?” In short, the article says yes. Moreover, it points to the extent of the problem, citing NSLA’s research revealing that 66 percent of teachers spend three to four weeks (and 24 percent spend five to six weeks) at the beginning of school reteaching course content from the prior academic year (Klein, 2013).

Referring to such “Brain Drain,” ThinkStretch says, “Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in reading and mathematical computation skills over the summer months.” Yet it also offers the following assessment: “To succeed in school and life, children need ongoing opportunities to learn and practice essential skills. This is especially true during the summer months . . . a glorious time for exploratory learning, creative pursuits, and outdoor activities” (ThinkStretch, 2018).

Sounds like summer camp to me!

Summer Brain Gain

Indeed, experiential learning in summer camp environments can dramatically improve individual learning and personal growth. According to the American Camp Association, gains for youth attending camp include the following (ACA, 2018):

  • Friendship skills (i.e., make friends and maintain relationships)
  • Independence (i.e., rely less on adults and other people for solving problems and for their day-to-day activities)
  • Teamwork (i.e., become more effective when working in groups of their peers)
  • Family citizenship (i.e., encourage attributes important to being a member of a family)
  • Perceived competence (i.e., believe that they can be successful in the things they do)
  • Interest in exploration (i.e., be more curious, inquisitive, eager to learn new things)
  • Responsibility (i.e., learn to be accountable for their own actions and mistakes)
  • Affinity for nature (i.e., develop feelings of emotional attraction toward nature)
  • Problem-solving confidence (i.e., believe they have abilities to resolve problems)
  • Camp connectedness (i.e., feeling welcomed and supported at camp)
  • Spiritual well-being (i.e., having purpose and meaning in life, transcendence)

The Competition — Internships and College Prep

Clearly, there exists a cluttered landscape of summer options for young adults. Chief among them seem to be perceived needs to land internships to beef up résumés (for camp staff) or to stay home to prepare for standardized testing and other general college prep (for older campers or young counselors).

With regard to internships, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) says, “Students pursue internships because they want to gain professional experience that links their academic coursework to the disciplines they want to pursue for their careers. To gain this experience, students want to engage in projects and tasks that contribute to the professional work of the organization . . . it provides a meaningful experience that allows for the application of academic knowledge” (NACE, 2018).

Dan Fleshler, in a seminal New York Times piece, “The Camp Counselor vs. the Intern,” shared the dilemma presented within his family; “In an act of quiet rebellion, my daughter will spend this summer as a counselor at a sleep-away camp in the Adirondacks. As rebellions go, this one is admittedly very tame. But she is resisting considerable pressure to join the throngs of anxious fellow collegians (she’s finishing her junior year) who will pad their résumés with summer internships in corporations, charities, law firms and other employers that, according to conventional wisdom, offer better preparation for the brutal economy than a summer camp . . . .

“Anyone can be a camp counselor, I said, and in this economy, she can’t afford to be just anyone. She needs to show that she is exceptional, to bedazzle potential employers, to brand herself. Just one line on the résumé could spell the difference between joining the millions of college grads lounging on their parents’ couches and a fabulous entry-level gig with Martin Scorsese — or, if she changes vocational directions, another rung on the ladder to success.”

Ultimately, Fleshler comes to refute that conventional wisdom, citing NACE data suggesting that “unpaid internships offer no advantage to the job-seeking student.”

His final conclusion? He agrees with his daughter’s assertion that “the work was incomparable preparation for the future, requiring the skills to manage group projects and motivate individuals, set goals and juggle tight schedules, and stay available for 24 hours a day, six days a week, in sickness and in health . . . . If I wake up with those fears this summer, I will try to tell myself that in a society where great camp counselors — like great teachers — are absurdly undervalued, her insistence on going back to camp demonstrates a great deal of toughness” (Fleshler, 2012).

Similarly, then-19-year-old Bates College student Sam Francis also faced a choice that was chronicled in the Psychology Today column “End Game — A Different Path to Workforce Development.” I stated what to me seemed painfully obvious: “While equating employment as a camp counselor with ‘play’ undervalues the very real responsibility and effort required to be successful, it is certainly the case that much of the work lines up nicely with, well, fun” (Wallace, 2015).

Sam told me, “For sure, the pull of the ‘real world’ is hard to ignore. I am currently in the process of finding summer work and I have just assumed I would get an internship at some large company, just as every other economics and math major does. Then it dawned on me that I have my whole life to wear suits and go to the office 9:00 to 5:00. A friend who took the expected route advised me to do something this summer that I may not have the opportunity to do again.”

So, he chose camp, a decision reinforced by a research-based article, “The Impact of Camp Employment on the Workforce Development of Emerging Adults,” published in the Journal of Park and Recreation Administration. It “highlights positive workforce development opportunities for camp staff and cites outcomes related to interpersonal interactions, communication, problem solving, and leadership.” The factors influencing those outcomes included developing intrinsic motivation for working at camp, being pushed out of one’s comfort zone, participating in a supportive community, and receiving positive feedback (Duerden et al., 2014).

As Barry Garst, PhD, associate professor of youth development leadership at Clemson University and a senior research fellow and national advisory board member at the Center for Adolescent Research and Education, told me in an email, “Employers are looking for young adults who are well prepared with a range of 21st-century skills and an ability to work effectively within a global society. Research supports the contributions of camp experiences, with rich opportunities for responsibility and collaborative decision-making, in building workforce development skills in young adult staff, including problem-solving, interpersonal communication, and leadership.”

Another source of attrition from camp is a train wreck known as the college test prep, search, application, and admissions process. More than a few campers and counselors succumb to the pressure of preparation. Fortunately, however, technology has now produced options that may very well provide the flexibility and space for tutoring and test prep among other summer plans. Companies with an online presence in the tutoring and test prep space, such as Trilogy Mentors, ACT Online Prep, Khan Academy, and Ray Dass Test Prep, may alleviate some of this academic pressure, self-imposed or otherwise.

“Some independent schools have ‘required summer tutoring hours’ for students who receive below a certain grade in a class,” explains John Failla, founder of Trilogy Mentors. “Oftentimes, these students have plans to attend summer camps long before they receive their final grades and, in some cases, required tutoring assignments. If one of the students works with Trilogy over the summer, we are able to deliver a report to the independent school, documenting [through our platform] the number of tutoring hours the student performed.”

Better Selves

Beyond the academic gains offered through technology are the simple, but powerful, inputs a summer camp experience provides. Those I outlined in my March 2018 TeenLife Media article, “10 Reasons Why High School Students Will Get a Lot From Summer Camp,” include accountability, confidence, exploration, responsibility, and spirituality (Wallace, 2018).

Other life lessons learned at camp, as expressed to me by teens ages 14–17, include patience, trustworthiness, identity formation, kindness, empathy, respect, honesty, perseverance, and self-advocacy.

Many kids simply say they are their “best selves” at summer camp!

Summer Camp amid the Noise and Haste

The many technology-fueled tutoring and test prep companies online may indeed help young people and their families plan for a summer at camp amid the noise and haste of preparing for college, thereby raising, and possibly answering, the question, “Internship, test prep — or camp?”

The latter deemed wanted and needed.

References

  • American Camp Association. (2018). Frequently asked questions about the ACA youth outcomes battery. American Camp Association. ACAcamps.org/resource-library/research/ frequently-asked-questions-about-aca-youthoutcomes-battery (18 July 2018).
  • ACT. (2018). ACT online prep. act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/testpreparation/act-online-prep.html (18 July 2018).
  • Duerden, M., Witt, P., Garst, B., Bialeschki, D., Schwarzlose, T., & K. Norton. (2014). The impact of camp employment on the workforce development of emerging adults. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration. Spring 2014. Volume 32, Number 1, pp. 26–44.
  • Ehrmann, M. (1927). Desiderata. The Poems of Max Ehrmann. Boston: Bruce Humphries Publishing Company. 1948.
  • Fleshler, D. (2012). The camp counselor vs. the intern. The New York Times. May 29, 2012. parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/thecamp-counselor-vs-the-intern/ (18 July 2018).
  • Hoyt, E. (2018). Summer programs for high school students. FastWeb. April 12, 2018. fastweb.com/ college-search/articles/summer-programs-forhigh- school-students (18 July 2018).
  • Khan Academy. (2018). khanacademy.org/sat (18 July 2018).
  • Klein, R. (2013). Summer learning loss study: can ‘summer slide’ be prevented? HuffPost. June 21, 2013. huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/21/summer-learning-loss-study_n_3391594.html (18 July 2018).
  • NACE. (2018). Position statement: U.S. internships. National Association of Colleges and Employers. naceweb.org/about-us/advocacy/positionstatements/position-statement-us-internships/ (18 July 2018).
  • NSLA. (2018). Smarter summer, brighter futures. National Summer Learning Association. summerlearning.org/ (18 July 2018).
  • O’Neal, J. (2016). Tutoring startup going virtual. Richmond Biz-Sense. October 27, 2016. richmondbizsense.com/2016/10/27/tutoringstartup-going-virtual/ (18 July 2018).
  • Raydass.com. (2018). Ray Dass Test Prep. raydass.com/ (18 July 2018).
  • ThinkStretch. (2018). Summer learning loss. thinkstretch.com/our-difference/summerlearning-loss/ (18 July 2018).
  • TLM. (2018). 13,000 Experiences for students in grades 7–12. TeenLife Media LLC. Teenlife.com. teenlife.com/ (18 July 2018).
  • Wallace, S. (2018). 10 reasons why high school students will get a lot from summer camp. TeenLife. Retrieved from teenlife.com/blogs/10-reasons-why-high-school-students-will-get-lotcamp?view=preview
  • Wallace, S. (2016). In the middle of September. LinkedIn. September 15, 2016. linkedin.com/pulse/middle-september-stephen-graywallace/?trk=prof-post (18 July 2018).
  • Wallace, S. (2015). End game — a different path to workforce development. Psychology Today. April 10, 2015. psychologytoday.com/us/blog/decisionsteens-make/201504/end-game (18 July 2018).

Stephen Gray Wallace, MS Ed, is president and director of the Center for Adolescent Research and Education (CARE), a national collaborative of institutions and organizations committed to increasing favorable youth outcomes and reducing negative risk behaviors. He has broad experience as a school psychologist and adolescent/ family counselor and serves as director of counseling and counselor training at Cape Cod Sea Camps, a member of the professional development faculty at the American Academy of Family Physicians and American Camp Association and a parenting expert at kidsinthehouse.com, NBCUniversal’s parenttoolkit.com and WebMD. He is also an expert partner at RANE (Risk Assistance Network & Exchange) and was national chairman and chief executive officer at SADD for more than 15 years. Additional information about Stephen’s work can be found at StephenGrayWallace.com.

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Character Does Count https://ecareforkids.org/2018/11/character-does-count/ https://ecareforkids.org/2018/11/character-does-count/#respond Sat, 17 Nov 2018 22:06:41 +0000 http://ecareforkids.org/?p=47739 Twenty years ago last month, I published an opinion editorial in the Cape Cod Times titled “Tell Teens: Character Does Count.” It was in response to a plethora of content in the media advising parents on how best to counsel their children on information recently made public in what has become known as the Starr Report. That...

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Twenty years ago last month, I published an opinion editorial in the Cape Cod Times titled “Tell Teens: Character Does Count.” It was in response to a plethora of content in the media advising parents on how best to counsel their children on information recently made public in what has become known as the Starr Report.

That was not a political statement. Neither is this.

With today’s teenagers spending an average of nine hours a day online, according to analysis in a report announced by Common Sense Media dating back to 2015, it’s not a stretch to imagine that questions are similarly on the rise given recent highly public statements and events.

Much of what I offered by way of advice back then still has salience today.

For teens, and those who parent, teach, coach and mentor them, what appears to be more critical than the personal circumstance of private indiscretions is this: What should that person, or persons, do next? How this question is answered by influential role models – be they in the media or known personally – will likely foreshadow the ethical behavior of our next generation of leaders.

As young people struggle to find direction in their own, evolving lives, they’ll need more guidance than ever, especially from the important adults who surround them. Unfortunately, as Patricia Hersch reported in her book A Tribe Apart, such support may be in short supply. “What she found was that America’s teens have fashioned a fully defined culture that adults neither see nor imagine – a culture of unprecedented freedom and baffling complexity, a culture with rules but no structure, values but no clear morality, codes but no consistency.”

The translation? Adults have abandoned teens in droves, often in the social-emotional sense – leaving them on their own to figure out who they are and who they are becoming.

Sounds familiar.

Indeed, as I wrote in my own book, Reality Gap, “No doubt, many well-meaning parents often have difficulty summoning up the courage to confront … hard to talk about subjects. But not engaging children in meaningful dialogue about critical issues, through commission or omission, leads teens to make poor decisions and to engage in destructive behaviors.”

It may be the case that adults buy into a false sense of maturity, independence and preparedness projected by their kids when their real selves may actually be quite fragile and riddled with fault lines. As a result, we often underplay our own significance during a developmental time period when youth need caring adults more than in any phase of the lifespan other than early infancy.

With complicit approval from those adults, many young people simply make up their own personal code of conduct as they go along, not understanding that each decision becomes part of a foundation on which their values are constructed.

In my January 2018 Psychology Today article, “Big Little Lies: Character, Culture and American Youth,” I noted, “The turmoil roiling in industries ranging from entertainment to government to broadcasting and beyond raises some significant issues with regard to how we are raising our children and the examples that potentially powerful public role models are, even unwittingly, providing to American youth … Thus, the process of character development is of critical importance to all who serve as touch points for young people.”

Enter our high-profile public role models. Regardless of their personal or professional status, when they refuse to accept responsibility for their behavior, young people take note. In fact, lying, or at least shading the truth, by influential adults in order to avoid an unwanted consequence can leave an indelible impression on brains not yet fully formed: that doing wrong is not what matters, it’s getting away with it that counts.

This is not to suggest that such public figures avoid all consequence, as certainly a price has been exacted from their families and reputations. Public figures’ blatant disregard for the sanctity of each often destroys what they may have taken a lifetime to build. It’s a sad commentary on our society at a time when children need more heroes, not fewer. It’s our collective responsibility to provide them.

As a psychologist and counselor, I know that, every day, American teens face critical decisions about personal choices, and about accepting or rejecting responsibility for those choices. I also know that, every day, it is critical for America’s adult caregivers to engage young people in dialogue intended to educate, persuade or cajole them into understanding the importance of accepting responsibility for their actions, learning from the experience and moving on.

Back-to-school time is generally one of fresh starts and new beginnings. Maybe even for adults. Perhaps if we offer some a “do over” on the role model requirement, they can look our youth in the eye and apologize for setting a severely misguided standard for appropriate behavior. Only then can they can convincingly convey the message that, indeed, character does count.

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When I’m With You: Addressing Youth Suicide – How to begin approaching the epidemic of youth suicide. https://ecareforkids.org/2018/11/when-im-with-you-addressing-youth-suicide-how-to-begin-approaching-the-epidemic-of-youth-suicide/ https://ecareforkids.org/2018/11/when-im-with-you-addressing-youth-suicide-how-to-begin-approaching-the-epidemic-of-youth-suicide/#respond Sat, 17 Nov 2018 22:02:41 +0000 http://ecareforkids.org/?p=47737 The current hit song “I Like Me Better” by Lauv highlights the powerful nature of connection with others. Perhaps it’s those relationships that hold the key to addressing the epidemic that is youth suicide. September marks National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, an important time to re-educate ourselves as to how best we can keep those we...

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The current hit song “I Like Me Better” by Lauv highlights the powerful nature of connection with others. Perhaps it’s those relationships that hold the key to addressing the epidemic that is youth suicide.

September marks National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, an important time to re-educate ourselves as to how best we can keep those we love safe and alive.

The Jason Foundation, a youth suicide prevention organization, has established a “Triangle of Prevention,” by providing students, parents and teachers the tools and resources necessary to try to identify and help at-risk youth.

Those they say are most at risk include the following.

  • Gay and lesbian youth
  • Learning disabled youth
  • Loners
  • Youth with low self-esteem
  • Depressed youth
  • Students in serious trouble
  • Abused, molested, or neglected youth
  • Youth with a genetic predisposition

Citing data collected by the Search Institute, CNN reported this month that “nearly 14 percent” of the 120,617 youth surveyed (ranging in age from 11-19) reported trying to kill themselves. Transgender teens reported the highest rates of suicide attempts (Scutti, 2018).

The Jed Foundation also notes that suicide is the second-leading cause of death for teenagers and young adults and offers the following “warning signs” that someone may be thinking of dying by suicide.

  • Talking about or making plans for suicide
  • Displaying hopelessness about the future
  • Expressing marked emotional pain or distress
  • Showing changes in behavior, such as:
    • Withdrawal from friends and family
    • Changes in sleep (increased or decreased)
    • Anger or hostility that seems out of character or out of context
    • Recent increased agitation

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), sponsor of the CureStigma campaign, says, “Each year, more than 41,000 individuals die by suicide, leaving behind their friends and family members to navigate the tragedy of loss … Too often the feelings of shame and stigma prevent them from talking openly” (NAMI, 2018).

“Postvention” recommendations for survivors were addressed in a February 2017 Psychology Today article, “Falling to Pieces,” following the suicide death of a Connecticut prep school senior. In it were common questions that were asked after a suicide and answered by Scott Poland, Ed.D., a CARE advisory board member and professor at Nova Southeastern University.

Why did he die by suicide? We are never going to know the answer to that question as the answer has died with him. The focus needs to be on helping students with their thoughts and feelings and everyone in the school community working together to prevent future suicides.

Didn’t he make a poor choice and is it OK to be angry with him? He did make a very poor choice, and research has found that many young people who survived a suicide attempt are very glad to be alive and never attempted suicide again. You have permission for any and all of your feelings in the aftermath of suicide, and it is OK to be angry with him. The suicide of a young person has been compared to throwing a rock into a pond with ripple effects in the school, church, and community at large, and there is often a search for a simple explanation. These ripple effects have never been greater than at the present, with the existence of social networks (e.g., Facebook) … Many individuals who died by suicide had untreated mental illnesses, and it is important that everyone is aware of resources that are available in the school and community so that needed treatment can be obtained.

Isn’t someone or something to blame for this suicide? The suicide victim made this decision and there is no one to blame. The decision to die by suicide involved every interaction and experience throughout the young person’s entire life up until the moment he died, and yet it did not have to happen. It is the fault of no one.

How can I cope with this suicide? It is important to remember what or who has helped you cope when you have had to deal with sad things in your life before. Please turn to the important adults in your life for help and share your feelings with them. It is important to maintain normal routines and proper sleeping and eating habits, and to engage in regular exercise. Please avoid drugs and alcohol. Resiliency, which is the ability to bounce back from adversity, is a learned behavior. Everyone does best when surrounded by friends and family who care and by viewing the future in a positive manner.

Important considerations, one and all.

Even so, perhaps our best efforts can be expended on preventing suicides in the first place. JFI states that four out of five teens who attempt suicide give “clear warning signs.” Because peers may be the first to become aware of a plan for suicide, TeensHealth provides some tips on how they might respond, with two of the most important ones being to ask and listen. “If you have a friend who is talking about suicide or showing other warning signs, don’t wait to see if he or she starts to feel better. Talk about it. Most of the time, people who are considering suicide are willing to discuss it if someone asks them out of concern and care … Listen to your friend without judging and offer reassurance that you’re there and you care. If you think your friend is in immediate danger, stay close—make sure he or she isn’t left alone” (TeensHealth, 2018).

Others analyzing recent research, including The Social Good founder Curtis Hougland, see trends leading away from telltale signs. He told me, “The data is showing that suicide is less related to mental health disorders. It is often a cultural contagion, and timing is everything.”

Also in play is the precipitous rise in the use of smartphones by young people. In her November 2017 article “With Teen Mental Health Deteriorating Over Five Years, There’s a Likely Culprit,” Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, points to evidence of a link between the proliferation of smartphones and increasing rates of mental health issues among young people. She says, “Around 2012, something started going wrong in the lives of teens. In just the five years between 2010 and 2015, the number of U.S. teens who felt useless and joyless—classic symptoms of depression—surged 33 percent in large national surveys. Teen suicide attempts increased 23 percent. Even more troubling, the number of 13- to 18-year-olds who committed suicide jumped 31 percent” (Twenge, 2017).

More recently, in her New York Times op-ed “Taking Away the Phones Won’t Solve Our Teenagers’ Problems,” Tracy A. Dennis-Tiwary, a psychology professor at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, pushes back on the notion that “excessive and compulsive” smartphone use causes mental health problems. She says, “In other words, there simply does not yet exist a prospective longitudinal study showing that, all things being equal, teenagers who use smartphones more often or in certain ways are more likely than their fellows to subsequently develop mental illness.”

Dennis-Tiwary advocates for large studies following people over time to reveal correlation and concludes, “Yes, we should devote resources to making smartphones less addictive, but we should devote even more resources to addressing the public health crisis of anxiety that is causing teenagers so much suffering and driving them to seek relief in the ultimate escape machines” (Dennis-Tiwary, 2018).

In the meantime, we can all give the gift of being with the young people we know.

For immediate help, 24/7: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK, or Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

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My Better Self https://ecareforkids.org/2018/11/my-better-self/ https://ecareforkids.org/2018/11/my-better-self/#respond Sat, 17 Nov 2018 22:01:34 +0000 http://ecareforkids.org/?p=47734 In a May/June 2018 Camping Magazine article, “Happy Campers – A Counterintuitive Conversation About Youth Mental Health,” I sought to reconcile the way most kids at summer camp say they feel with a pile of data suggesting that we are facing rising rates of anxiety, depression and suicide among teens and young adults. I began with the...

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In a May/June 2018 Camping Magazine article, “Happy Campers – A Counterintuitive Conversation About Youth Mental Health,” I sought to reconcile the way most kids at summer camp say they feel with a pile of data suggesting that we are facing rising rates of anxiety, depression and suicide among teens and young adults.

I began with the obvious question: “Why are kids at camp so darn happy?”

Probably for a lot of reasons, including the four cornerstones of experiential learning: kindness, gratitudeempathy and emotional support. Each was celebrated on July 24 during the first-ever National Camp Kindness Day, sponsored by the American Camp Association (ACA), which accredits more than 14,000 camps serving close to 15 million children.

ACA explains, “Camp has become a part of the fabric of America – conjuring special memories of hiking, swimming, friendships, and adventure for generations. When children go to camp, they’ll likely come home gushing about the lifelong friends they’ve made, and the exciting adventures they had. What they probably won’t tell you about are the life lessons camp has given them – those skills that, if nurtured at home after camp, translate into a lasting self-confidence, an awareness of the importance of kindness, and a greater comfort in voicing their opinions.”

But what do the kids say? In short, that they are their “best selves” at camp.

Some seventeen-year-old teen leaders at the Cape Cod Sea Camps (CCSC) weighed in on their summer experiences.

Marisa: “Camp has always brought out the best in me. Some say it could have been the beautiful weather or location, but I truly believe it was the people. Camp always had such positive energy and vibes that I wanted to do my best in activities and other events. I grew as a person as I got to meet so many different people. Becoming a role model made me want to be better for the kids I was taking care of and teaching. It was different from school, because I was with people who had the same interests as me, not just grouped with people who live in the same location.”

Julian: “I had always been a quiet and introverted individual, but around four years ago that changed. During my first year in CCSC’s Leadership Program (the Corps), I formed bonds with friends that stand strong even today. Throughout my second to third year in the Corps I not only saw myself improving as a leader, but also as a person. By the time my fourth and final year in the Corps rolled around, I had some pretty big shoes to fill. With the support of my friends and with the camp environment that has become like a home to me, I was ready to really step up as a leader. My camp experience has forever changed me and made me a more confident person.”

Sophie: “As a teen leader, I was exhausted every evening after a full day of taking care of the campers and fully engaging in the camp community. However, I knew that my girls were counting on me to be present and engaged in their lives as well. I also wanted to set a good example for them, because I thought back to all of my old counselors, my role models, and I wanted to be the same sort of idol that they were to me. Even as a younger leader, I knew that campers looked up to me and expected me to lead them. This confidence to lead, especially in times of uncertainty, in activities I was unfamiliar with, or when asked a question that I did not know the answer to, would never have come as easily if I had not devoted so much of my time and energy to learning how to be not only a good camp counselor but also a good leader.”

Tyler: “When I think about what kind of person I am at camp and compare it to who I am in everyday life, I see two different people. During the school year, I make education my priority, living each day with an almost monotonous rhythm. On the contrary, living at camp every day is filled with excitement and everyone is in a positive mood. This leads me to question why these two environments, while similar in the aspect of community, have different effects on me. I think at school the boring, robotic mindset ‘infects’ a lot of people and spreads. At CCSC that mindset is replaced with a friendly, exciting and happy mindset that perpetually exists through everyone at camp.”

Other reasons behind such happiness likely include outcomes related to college and workforce preparation.

On the first front, Grace, also 17, told me, “I believe camp has prepared me immensely for college. I have learned how to be more independent and to interact with adults better, and I have become increasingly more confident and able to lead. I am used to living with at least 12 others in a small cabin, so I know that sharing a dorm will be no problem. I have learned to work my hardest and communicate with those evaluating me, which has enabled me to interact with my teachers better and I know will help me with my professors in the future. I truly believe that my experiences in the Corps have taught me almost everything I need to know about life right now.”

As for workforce development, while spending time at summer camp may seem a temporary dodge from the path careers are built on, it’s not. In fact, research suggests just the opposite. “The Impact of Camp Employment on the Workforce Development of Emerging Adults,” published in the Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, highlights positive workforce development opportunities for camp staff and cites outcomes related to interpersonal interactions, communication, problem solving and leadership.

Building toward futures of service and success, while finding their better selves – all the more reason for summer camp.

REFERENCES

ACA. (2018). The long-lasting benefits of camp. American Camp Association. https://www.acacamps.org/resource-library/parents/long-lasting-benefits-camp (15 Sept. 2018).

Cape Cod Sea Camps. (2018). Teen leadership program. https://www.capecodseacamps.com/resident-camp/teen-leadership/ (15 Sept. 2018).

Duerden, M., Witt, P., Garst, B., Biaeschki, D., Schwarzlose, T. and K. Norton. The impact of camp employment on the workforce development of emerging adults. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration. Spring 2014. Volume 32, Number 1, pp. 26-44. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/266385703_The_impact_of_camp_employment_on_the_workforce_development_of_emerging_adults (15 Sept. 2018).

Wallace, S. (2018). Happy campers: a counterintuitive conversation about youth mental health. Camping Magazine. May 2018. https://www.acacamps.org/resource-library/camping-magazine/happy-campers-counterintuitive-conversation-about-youth-mental-health (15 Sept. 2018).

Wallace, S. (2015). End game: a different path to workforce development. Psychology Today. April 10, 2015. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/decisions-teens-make/201504/end-game (15 Sept. 2018).

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