– by Andrew Motiwalla
In today’s knowledge-based society, there is an increased demand for individuals who are prepared to succeed in academics and the workplace. This is an individual who is academically prepared in reading, writing, and mathematics knowledge AND possesses life skills (e.g. interpersonal skills and leadership) .
A LinkedIn survey highlights that employers regularly identify social competencies as the “most valuable yet hard-to-find” capabilities of workers. Widespread concern exists that young people lack these essential skills.
The idea that summer programs help individuals develop social skills is not new; but a study by researchers from University of Utah provides evidence that social skills are learned at summer programs and may be transferred to academics and the workplace.
This five year study investigated the learning outcomes from summer camp most applicable to academics and workplace readiness. The primary learning outcomes for youth include relationship skills, teamwork, how to live with peers, self-confidence, organization, responsibility, independence, perseverance, career orientation, and emotion regulation.
Table excerpted from “Examining the Role of Summer Camps in Developing Academic and Workplace Readiness”, Journal of Youth Development, Vol. 13, Issue 1-2
Teamwork and Collaboration:
Relationship skills was the most central theme interviewees found applicable to academic and workplace readiness. Almost half of participants thought the relationship skills learned at camp helped them reach out and make friends at school. Relationship skills were also beneficial for participants in their jobs; they felt it helped their ability to provide superior customer service at work.
“I liked the sense of community and inclusiveness. I also liked the way the classes were oriented to guide everyone towards success.” – Clarence C.
“I liked studying and making new friends. I also liked understanding how important teamwork is and that there will be problems whether you are working with known people or strangers.” Devansh P.
Self-Discovery and Confidence:
Participants indicated they learned more about their true selves at camp, which helped in academics and their jobs. In a sense, a summer program is an opportunity to learn and practice skills needed in the future. A successful summer program experience helps youth realize they have the confidence to go away to college, consider study abroad, talk strategically and effectively with their roommate, and engage in clubs and extracurricular activities. Students should leave a summer program with increased self-awareness so they can make decisions about college selection, academic majors, and careers that reflect their personal vision for success.
“This program has taught me a lot, but not only in the academic portion. I’ve benefited from the medical class, but I think my biggest takeaway is from the True You. I don’t usually think about myself, like who am I really or which occupation I am suitable for. From the True You, I was able to discover my strengths and weaknesses, and how to improve my EQ. I’ve become much more independent, and should always take the time to reflect on myself.” – Nicole S.
“My daughter had a super fantastic experience!! Returned with more confidence, good physical shape and very focused on her career decision.” – Gregory B.
Opportunities for experiential learning or “learning by doing” was one of the most universal mechanisms for a variety of outcomes. With the right type of summer program, students won’t sit in a classroom all day. Rather it should be a unique blend of hands-on learning and real world insight. Students should participate in interactive experiences that expose them to career opportunities, academic passions, diverse arts, cultures, value systems and histories in ways that no textbook could convey. These experiences welcome high engagement, critical thinking and a willingness to see the world through many different perspectives.
“I really enjoyed when I got to work hands on like suturing and the simulation labs. I also appreciated being taught by real doctors from the ED who have traveled to foreign countries for humanitarian aid; it was very inspiring.” – Megan J.
“My daughter had a wonderful time. She really liked the hands on learning done in the medical program. She was really proud of her new skills. It was wonderful to see her shine from the inside.” – Laura K.
Separate Time and Space:
Study participants directly attributed learning to the separation between camp and parents, family, friends, and school. Summer programs involve removing the child from a familiar setting and placing him or her into a completely different physical place and social setting with intentional support designed to help the child navigate the disruption of the typical day-to-day experience and successfully integrate into the camp environment. Students realize that the fear and uncomfortable adjustments that many first-year university students experience were no big deal, because they went to “college” for the first time when they were in high school.
“I liked the strong sense of independence that the program offered. We were granted the ability to choose the majority of our activities and how we wanted to spend our free time.” – Ethan G.
“The experience provided my son with insight as to what college could be like. I think it also helped motivate him, so that when he is studying long hours this fall, he knows the reward will be better odds at getting into a good college. He really enjoyed the independence, and knowing that he could manage on “his own” so far from home.” – Justine A.
Counselors and Staff:
Counselors were powerful levers of youth development; they were caring and compassionate individuals, teachers and facilitators, and role models. They should be fun-loving, experienced, and passionate about student growth and development. All program staff go through a rigorous training program to ensure students not only learn, but do so in the safest way possible. All staff members, as the heart and soul of camp, were identified as near-peer role models whom campers looked up to and emulated.
“What I liked most was everyone’s dedication and heart. From classmates participating actively in class, to RAs guiding us along, to the instructors’ patience and passion in spreading their knowledge. Everyone was into the program with all their heart, which was what made this experience both educational and enjoyable.” – Oceana L.
“My daughter came home thrilled with her experience and continues to talk about what she learned. Additionally, the staff was excellent and my daughter raved about them during her time there and once she returned home.” – Mary M.
Communal Living and Diversity of People:
Communal living afforded campers the opportunity to live with people they had just met. This experience taught campers how to interact with peers, practice living with people other than their family, to be responsible for their daily living, and how to manage their emotions during disagreements with cabin mates. Campers can be diverse and vary across a multitude of factors such as values, beliefs, family structure, gender identity, interests, personality, hometown, socioeconomic status, and race. A broad array of individuals at camp helped participants learn how to interact with people different from themselves.
“This program allowed me to meet friends from all over the world. It gave me a new experience that I have never experienced before. It also gave me an insight on college life and changed my perspective on what I wanted to do in the future.” – Nicole C.
“I liked the experience of living and bonding with people from all around the world and gaining insight into different people’s backgrounds.” – Aditya B.
Safe and Supportive Environments:
Former campers believed camp had a safe and supportive culture that was maintained by peers, older campers, and counselors. Individuals’ communication, actions, and behaviors cultivated an intangible atmosphere of safety and security. The number one priority should be creating a safe and secure environment for students. Summer programs should have a robust safety system, based on a set of rigorous standards, which ensures that issues are addressed efficiently and safely, and that students, parents, and staff are in close communication. All staff members should have extensive experience working with teens and provide 24-hour guidance and support.
“I like the fact that I was allowed to be myself without judgment. Everyone was lovely and supportive, especially in regards to my academic track; that encouraged me to work hard and really allowed me to enjoy what I was doing. ” – AJ J.
“Our daughter had a great time at the program. It was her first time at a non-sports program and her first time away for that long of time. She was very apprehensive about going and even considered backing out. Now I think she would rank it as the highlight of her summer. She made great friends, got to know herself better, and I think her perspective on the world has changed.” – Juliana B.
Interested in learning more?
Summer Springboard provides pre-college summer programs for teens at UC Berkeley, Yale, and Georgetown. The innovative 2-week summer programs for high school students combine self-discovery with hands-on learning and college preparation. Call 858-780-5660.