When campers get to be fifteen and sixteen years old, the assumption is that they are faced with the tough decision of spending the summer at home strengthening their college applications through internships and coursework or having a carefree summer at camp. With college admissions being tougher than ever, the trend has quickly shifted away from camp. Over the past few summers, Manitou has been working toward creating a program that targets our high school and college-aged campers and counselors and provides opportunities for them to gain essential skills and become leaders in action. Beginning with the CIT program, our goal is to lay down the foundation for dedicated campers to become involved, veteran counselors who possess the skill-set to run one-quarter of the camp.
What We Have Accomplished
The oldest campers are referred to as the CITs (Counselors In Training). This is the most influential group of campers because the rest all look up to them. Most of these campers have been at camp for six or seven years and have thought endlessly about the impact they can have as CITs. When you ask a CIT what they are most looking forward to at camp, they will undoubtedly say to become a leader on their College League team. Each College League team consists of over a hundred campers and counselors. With the guidance of their deans, the CITs assume the responsibility of being role models for the entire team. CITs are charged with the tasks of addressing the team before every loop or meet, supporting the dean with organization and team morale, embrace younger campers so they feel welcome and part of something bigger than themselves, and working for five and a half weeks straight to make their team the most memorable experience they have been a part of.
In addition to the extensive work they do around College League, the CITs are in the process of organizing and executing the first Manitou Experience Gifford’s Challenge. The CITs took it upon themselves to create a new event in order to raise donations for one of Manitou’s non-profit organizations, Manitou Experience. Everything from contacting parents and local vendors to budgeting for the event, the CITs have taken the lead on this project and will see it through into second session.
Junior Counselor Program
Once campers graduate the CIT program, they are invited back the following summer as Junior Counselors (JC). This is one of the toughest transitions at camp because one goes from being the oldest camper to the youngest staff member. With the help of former JCs and the JC Coordinator, we want to make the JC program stronger. In order to do this, we have added some new elements to the program. One of which is a series of Leadership Development Seminars led by the JC Coordinator. In these weekly Seminars, we discuss a new topic that pertains to something relevant at camp that can also be transferable to life outside of camp. The point of the Seminars is to create a dialogue between those learning the ropes and those who have been there. Each session, we invite a veteran director to speak with the JCs about the particular topic that day and how it applies to both camp and the real world. The sessions conclude with a team-building or personal exercise, and we create goals for our next session.
Where We Are Headed
By staying active with the CIT and JC programs, we aim to see a continuous rise in the number of campers who decide to become Junior Counselors and move through the ranks to eventually become leaders of camp. This is an opportunity for our young Manitou Men to gain a unique experience that is unmatched in the real world. Our boys should not have to decide between an internship and camp but rather be given the skills and experience to be successful.