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5 Life-Changing Lessons Teens Learn at Summer Camp

Summer camp is an invaluable experience for teens. The sense of belonging unlike anywhere else offers a place to be yourself: a rare chance to love without limits or labels. The rhythm of respite, recreation and renewal inspires teens to thrive. The transformative journey to explore year after year yields advantages teens can bring to life outside of camp. Consider our five life-changing lessons teens learn at summer camp.

1. Building Emotional Intelligence

Ask any senior executive about the best predictor of employee success and one answer continues rising to the surface: emotional intelligence. Simply, an employee’s inclination for communication, empathy, understanding and self-awareness surpasses both relevant prior experience and high IQ.

An employee who is intellectually up for a task is not the same as an employee with people skills. Hiring the smartest people is important but not as important as hiring someone who is equally as thoughtful. More than smarts, experience and talent, employers demand people who can communicate, collaborate and cooperate.

Camp promotes a noncompetitive environment for teens to develop close friendships and improve interpersonal skills. Teenaged campers return home with the tools to become successful adults in families, communities and companies. The face-to-face communication and relationship skills learned at camp can prove more important for long-term success than high SAT scores.

2. Healthy Risk-Taking

Teens take risks for the thrill. Despite any awareness of danger, the reward (most often, excitement) outweighs the risk. Contrary to popular belief, risk-taking is a part of normal development. The behavior can both positive and negative.

Negative risks — including substance abuse, stunts prone to serious injury, texting while driving and unprotected sex — threaten to put teens in jeopardy. Positive, healthy risks, on the other hand, can help teens thrive.

special needs teens at summer camp

Camp is a place for safe, controlled risks and challenges. Rock climbing, wakeboarding, mountain climbing and other adrenaline inducing activities help teens seek out the excitement of risk-taking in a healthy, nondestructive way.

Healthy risk-taking builds confidence, strengthens decision-making skills and most importantly, frees teens from exposure to negative risks.

3. Learning Beyond Academics

Few environments help teens build more character and life skills than summer camp. Living on their own, away from parents and forced to find their own resources, campers gain a significant edge in the key areas of independence, responsibility and decision-making.

The knowledge and skills taught in the school core curriculum hardly prepare teens for success in the community and workplace. Summer camp, on the other hand, teaches the invaluable attributes of grit, perseverance and leadership. Where school rewards good grades and academic achievement, camp builds personal character. Teens quickly learn character development is its own reward.

4. Emulating Positive Role Models

From the latest hip hop artist to the reality TV star and professional athlete, positive role models are few and far between. Teens who need a person to emulate often come up short in finding one.

Positive role models are instrumental in helping teens develop career aspirations, educational goals and behavior baselines. Positive role models motivate teens to avoid unhealthy behaviors including bullying, cheating in school and substance abuse. Teenagers with positive role models show greater self-esteem and perform better in school.

Camp is a wonderful place for teens to form close friendships with positive role models. Camp counselors are often diligent college students who love to help others. The friendly, personable and wholesome group at camp loves doing interesting things with others. Everyone is welcome to join in on the fun.

The positive role models at camp teach sportsmanship, determination, drive and ethics. Counselors encourage teens to achieve their goals and become the type of adult every parent dreams for their child. The supportive environment influences and inspires teens to be their best selves.

5. Journey of Self-Discovery

For most teens, the success grind is the same: study for the SATs, send out college applications, select a good major and land a high-salary career. While college may be a stepping stone to a thriving career, there is no academic course for discovering your best self.

Camp is a place for teens to step back from the normal routine and realize passion, life importance and a sense of self. Campers pick up new hobbies and discover interesting subjects to study in school. The entire camp experience is a journey towards self-discovery.

Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Know who you are and everything is open to you. He believed self-discovery is a prerequisite for life direction: knowing what you want to do and making important decisions. The purpose of the journey: acquiring insight into your own character.

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