Is your tween insisting she’s too old to attend camp this summer? If your child isn’t old enough to get a summer job and just hanging around for three months is off the table, look into your local Counselor-in-Training (CIT) programs.
These programs are for young teens serious about assuming the responsibility and effort it takes to work with young children in a camp setting. Openings are limited, and some camps only consider those teens who have been “campers” in previous years, so now is the ideal time to do your research.
What It’s All About
CIT programs (sometimes called Leadership Training Programs) are intended to train teens to become future counselors, leaders, and mentors. The scope of responsibilities varies enormously from camp to camp. Some might include: organizing and planning activities, leading teams in various projects, helping out with camp maintenance, assisting counselors with office work, and assisting at various athletic activities.
These trainees are usually still considered “campers,” but they assume more responsibilities and are given leadership roles. Most CIT’s are still considered minors, and, therefore are not paid. Counselors in Training usually pay a reduced “camper’s” fee. The teens are expected to split their time between being a camper and spending time working as a CIT. Counselors in Training at day camps are usually 13 to 16 years old. (Overnight camps usually expect applicants to be 16 or 17.) In some of these instances, the CIT’s are paid a stipend or given tips.
Tweens and teens participating in CIT programs gain confidence in themselves and their special abilities and talents. Most camp directors expect that CIT’s will learn leadership skills, develop responsibility and competency, acquire a strong work ethic, gain decision-making skills, and learn to be part of a team working towards a common goal. Teens learn the value of being a positive role model and mentor for younger kids. These programs serve as a release from the academic pressures teens are faced with during the school year, yet they still provide an excellent learning experience.
The completion of a CIT program also looks great on job and college applications and may apply toward community service requirements for middle and high school. Participation in these programs shows a willingness to work hard and take on the responsibility necessary to work with young children. Program directors provide valuable references because they can write about a trainee’s strengths and accomplishments in detail.
The Application Process
The application process varies from camp to camp. Some camps require interviews and references. Others only accept applications from teens who have been “campers” in previous years. Therefore, it is important to call the camp you have in mind prior to applying. Camps are looking for teens excited about becoming mentors to younger kids. So it is imperative that your teen lists any baby-sitting, tutoring younger students, and community service positions (such as reading to youngsters at a local library) on their application. Teens should list skills or sports they are good at on their application as well. For instance, if a teen has lots of experience with tennis, a camp director might foresee using her as an assistant coach in his tennis program.
Find the Right Fit
Your teen will have a better experience if the camp she chooses fits her abilities, skills, and interests. Ask friends and neighbors about camps their children attended, particularly if they participated in a CIT program. It is always good to hear from someone who has experienced the program first-hand.
Every camp is unique and members of the American Camping Association visit every summer to list distinguishable qualities. Parents can visit www.acacamps.org for information about camps in their area and ideally, visit the camp in person.
Whether your child goes on to become a counselor or utilizes her experience at a completely different job in the future, attending a CIT program is a great way to garner leadership skills that will last a lifetime.
By Myrna Beth Haskell
Myrna Beth Haskell is an award-winning author, columnist, and feature writer. Her work has appeared in national and regional publications across the U.S., as well as internationally. For more information, please visit her website at: myrnahaskell.com