Many communities are fortunate to have a college or university campus in their own neighborhood. College campuses are very often an untapped resource for camp programming.
For a fresh perspective, you might consider looking at camp as an effective tool for linking a college and the community, which creates positive results for the college, college students, and young campers in the local community.
College and university campuses offer camp administrators the opportunity to utilize state of the art technologies, updated physical resources, as well as connect with trained professionals (educators, coaches) and mentors (college-aged students).
An exploration into creating and fostering a partnership with a college/university can truly evolve into a win-win opportunity for you the camp administrator along with the college and the local community.
An institute of higher education not only represents the ideals of learning but is also a model of community service and pro-social initiatives. A camp can be the method by which colleges can reach out to and connect to the communities they surround.
Fostering a partnership with a college or university takes persistence and time. The four-step guide for camp administrators to create a relationship with a college includes communication with the college, community, and local youth associations, inclusion (the involvement of the camp counselors, campers, college staff members and students, parents and local youth agencies, follow-up (starts with the last day of camp until next season’s activities, and includes invitations and updates of college and community wide activities) and the commitment to demonstrate the link between the college and community.
The first step in initiating a rapport with local colleges and universities is to seek information from the local youth organizations and colleges/universities.
Camp administrators must determine from local youth organizations:
1. The types of summer camp programs that currently exist.
2. The camps that are successful and why.
3. Which camps receive poor recommendations and why.
4. The expectations for summer camps of the local community.
Camp administrators must determine from local colleges/universities.
1. The types of summer camps currently offered on campus.
2. Which types of academic majors exist on campus that can support academic, recreational and/or athletic camp programming.
3. Any interested college staff members and students who can provide leadership for camp programming.
Each community may have several camp options. However, connecting with a college and university to develop a specific camp with measurable and attainable educational and developmental objectives may be the most effective vehicle to reach young camp participants.
Three way communication must be developed amongst the college staff/personnel, camp administrators and community members in order to allow for a clear understanding of the mission of the camp and the best methods for delivering the program to the local youth.
In addition to the camp business mission statement, the camp director must also communicate the benefits created for both the college and community.
Camp administrators who can foster a partnership with college programming can enrich the overall experience for their campers. For instance, when a camp utilizes college students as mentors and counselors, campers can connect with a role model — someone who can effectively balance the rigors of academics and student life from athletics to student government.
Campers can also learn more about college and learn from students who reside in other states and are from diverse backgrounds.
A camp administrator can also work with collegiate facility managers in order to use campus resources, which can include state-of-the-art computer technology and top level recreation sports fields and aquatics centers.
Summer camp directors must include the ideas and energies of the staff, immersing college students and university personnel in the daily activities of the camp.
In order for the staff to identify with the mission of the camp, they must feel and believe in their contribution to the camp. Directors should recruit staff early in order to understand their strengths, goals for the camp, and to learn fresh methods of teaching, mentoring, and coaching.
Staff members should not just follow a script but should rather create activities from which they have learned and create lessons and techniques that they enjoy sharing with others.
Over the course of the camp, however long the sessions run, campers connected with the college counselors and the college counselors connected with the campers.
In order to link the college and the community, camp organizers must find programming to allow the campers to participate in on-campus programming such as a university play, a debate, or a sporting event.
In addition, camp administrators must also find opportunities for the college staff members and students to go off campus to reconnect with the camper in a community setting.
College sporting events are great vehicles for announcing that the campers are on hand to support the team. Children love to hear their names mentioned or see their group name on the scoreboard.
College students can give back to the community by volunteering to coach one of the camper’s teams for a day, organize a reading day at a local library, or help a youth coach at a game.
The aim of follow-up is to keep close ties with the college/university, community at large and with the individual campers who have surely connected to the college program throughout the camp.
Camp organizers can develop college clinics hosted throughout the year in order to continue to support the efforts of youth sport development and create an interest for the summer camp.
Summer camps on a college campus can be a tremendous force in connecting a college with the community.
Demonstrating a commitment of sharing human resources (allowing coaches and student-athletes to assist with coaching a youth team or allowing college art majors to teach drawing to children), sharing physical resources (allow the young campers to perform a play on a college campus or organize the youth championships to be played at the college stadium), sharing a philosophy (allowing young children to understand the ideals of volunteerism, fair play, and life-long learning), and creating clinics and camps that will not only advance skill development but also connect children with role models.
Once camp is over the process of linking the college with the community begins again. The communication with youth agencies and college personnel must continue to flourish.
Camp organizers must evaluate the strengths and areas of improvement with camp programming. Most importantly, camp administrators must listen to the participants.
Administrators must determine what the young campers enjoyed and learned from, what the college students experienced through mentoring and connecting with youngsters in the community, what goals were achieved, and finally, how to continue to connect with the college and ultimately the community.
The link between college and youth in the community through summer camp programming can be far-reaching and powerful. The long-lasting result of this partnership is limitless.
Dr. Gina Gentile is associate professor of sports management and head soccer coach at Endicott College, Beverly, Mass.