Branch County Friends Camp provides teen counselors with leadership experiences
Much can be said about the benefits of a structured camp for young people but campers are not the only group that benefit. Camp counselors also gain leadership skills from being responsible for their young campers and the overall operation of camp.
As planning begins for summer events, many think of summer as a time for carefree play for young people. Not in Branch County, here many young people spend one of their summer weeks at a 4-H camp.
Camp can provide a time for youth to learn in a non-formal, educational way through hands-on activities. There are camps for every subject area imaginable; sports, arts, music and others to suit any interest young people have.
Much can be said about the benefits of a structured camp for young people but campers are not the only group that benefit from camp. Camp counselors also gain leadership skills from being responsible for their young campers and the overall operation of camp.
Michigan State University Extension’s Branch County’s Friends Program is a week-long day program for 7-11 year olds focused on good nutrition and health, as well as learning to be a good friend. Friends’ counselors are 15 years old and older and are in charge of 10-11 young people, leading them through a full schedule of activities. To prepare for their role as a counselor, teens go through a day-long counselor orientation, as well as a background screening.
Riley Cooper-Lewis was a counselor for the 2017 Branch County Friends Camp and is a current 4-H member. Riley says that working as a counselor has helped her to grow her skills.
“You learn how to take control of situations that you wouldn’t be able to without the Branch County Friends’ Camp experience,” said Rile. “You also learn a lot about patience. Kids start to ask you questions instead of going to the adults and they care about your advice... Camp has helped me to be less shy and I have felt more comfortable talking with the other counselors and kids. Camp has boosted my self-confidence. You see how you help the campers grow. It helped me be a leader for all of the 4-H kids. I think that I will be a 4-H leader in the future.”
Camp is full of learning experiences for campers and can be a fun way to provide valuable lessons and life skill development for participants. It can also provide long-lasting life skills for counselors who take on leadership roles during camp.
To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service, and global and cultural education programs, read the 2016 impact report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways MSU Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.