Research on medical specialty camps suggests positive outcomes for youth living with illnesses in terms of reducing isolation, improving self-esteem, and developing goal-setting skills. Less is known, however, about counselor-in-training (CIT) programs which are a common approach to transition older campers to leadership roles. CIT programs at medical specialty camps may be uniquely situated to foster character development because the communities are inclusive, and the CITs are motivated to give back.
During this project, the American Institutes for Research, SeriousFun Children’s Network, and American Camp Association, along with a community of practice and CITs, will work to (a) refine a character development framework that can be applied in medical specialty camp CIT programs, (b) develop a framework-aligned toolkit, and (c) conduct an implementation and outcomes study to document the process of the first two tasks while exploring the implementation and associated outcomes of the character development framework and toolkit.
We will produce a publicly available character development framework for medical specialty camp CIT programs, a free character development toolkit for camp practitioners at medical specialty camps, and publications summarizing project findings. Within 5 years of completing the project, we anticipate a greater understanding of and commitment to promoting character development in CIT programs at medical specialty camps; a better understanding of the best approaches to introduce character development within CIT programs, medical specialty camps, and the broader camp community; and future projects or studies to expand on this work. We hope this project will impact the many individuals with medical illnesses who attend medical specialty camps by ensuring their camp experiences are better designed to further character development.