Teen Staff Perceptions of Their Development in Camp: Insights for Theory and Practice


  • Marianne Bird University of California Cooperative Extension
  • Aarti Subramaniam University of California Cooperative Extension




camp program impact, teen staff development, youth-adult partnership, camp outcomes


For 15 years, the California 4-H Camping Advisory Committee has studied the experience of campers and teen staff at 4-H camps across the state. The 4-H Youth Development Program has a strong commitment to youth empowerment and embraces a model of youth-adult partnership across all programs. As such, teenagers, with adult support, plan camp programs and serve as staff for younger youth at California 4‑H camps. Although program evaluations point to positive experiences for all youth, the high school students who plan and deliver these programs consistently report stronger relationships, greater engagement, and more robust outcomes than campers. In this paper, we review archived qualitative data from two previous California 4-H camp studies to examine, from the perspective of teen camp staff members, the components of the program that may lead to such positive experiences for young teenagers serving in leadership roles. Our findings align with prior research about the benefits of teen leadership at camp, and reinforce that research-based concepts, such as youth-adult partnership and opportunities for meaningful contribution, create an environment that fosters positive development in adolescents.


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