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Summer Camps Build Teen Leaders

Summer Camps Build Teen Leaders
By Ashley Sigrest

Summer camps are known to be great experiences for children, but can have greater lifelong impacts on teens. In an age where social media is the core for teen communication, summer camps provide a place to unplug and build better interpersonal skills. Camps give teenagers a safe place to try new risks, whether it’s a ropes course or bettering their face-to-face communication. Psychological studies are showing that being out in nature has countless benefits in lowering stress levels and anxieties. With suicide risks being higher amongst youth than ever before, it’s imperative for young people to learn how to cope with their emotional and mental struggles and reach out to their peers in need.

What is so unique about camp experience?

Parents want their teenagers to be better prepared for their future and often think that will come with academics or being a part of extracurricular activities. While that is true, not all students will have those same positive experiences. Summer camps engage all who attend and help these teens push their own boundaries. Camps give them a space to try new things and even fail without the social backlash they might receive elsewhere. Summer camps are set up for teamwork and encouraging others by building not only a greater sense of self, but also teaching teens to build up others.

Camps play vital roles in helping your kids develop these skills by providing opportunities for rites of passage. American children seem to have a shorter childhood and a longer adolescence. This gives teens the idea that they are more mature than they are mentally and emotionally adept of being. At camp teens are able to let loose, be silly, and let their inner child come out, while at the same time strengthening their leadership skills. They’re able to take safe risks that they need to develop a strong sense of character and independence. Hiking, canoeing, archery, and obstacle courses may appear to be just physical activities, but when you combine them with camp morale, they become foundations for what teens need as they grow into adults.

Summer opportunities for teens

If your teenager isn’t keen on being just a camper, many summer camps offer opportunities like counselors or leaders-in-training programs where they not only get the traditional camper experience, but also take on more responsibilities to help the lead counselors they’re assigned to. Peg Smith, chief executive office of the American Camp Association says: “Tomorrow’s leaders will need 21st century skills, such as critical thinking, communications and creativity. Working at camp develops responsibility, independence, adaptability, and teamwork. By working as a CIT or in a counselor training program, youth are able to develop these skills in mentoring relationships with senior counselors and camp staff.”

Twin Lakes Camp in Florence, Mississippi offers a leader-in-training program for teens 13-15 years old. For one week, teens in the L.I.T. program serve in leadership positions in assisting counselors with games for younger campers, setting tables for meals, and other responsibilities, as well as participate in their own camp activities. Laura Box of Jackson just applied to be in the L.I.T. program this summer to learn how to be a strong leader in learning how to resolve conflict situations. She says she was also drawn to Twin Lakes because of their focus on Christ. “I want to learn how to show children that God is in everything we see. I want to show them how to see His plan in everything that happens.”

If your teen wants to be a part of this program you can go to to complete an application. Expect your child to have a phone interview before being accepted.

Stepping stones to success

Programs like this help prepare teens for their future in any field. The interpersonal skills gained will better them in lifelong cooperation with others, leadership skills, self-esteem, and provide growth in their emotional intelligence. Forbes Magazine stated, employers aren’t just looking for people with high IQs, but businesses want employees who can collaborate and communicate well with others. “In a third international study of 515 senior executives, emotional intelligence was a better predictor of success than relevant previous experience or high IQ.”

There aren’t many avenues for teens and young adults to acquire these specific skill sets. Working or attending a summer camp provides a truly unique opportunity. There are a good number of camps in and around Mississippi that your teen can attend or apply for a summer job. As summer is quickly approaching, now is the time to start applying for this opportunity of a lifetime.


Ashley Sigrest is a mom to a teenager she hopes will have this great experience. She fondly remembers her childhood camp days and is thankful opportunities like this exist for her children.

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