Fostering youth leaders is a core component of many YMCA of Greater Toronto programs. In honour of Youth Week in Toronto, we’re shining the spotlight on Summer, a YMCA day camp staff member whose experience as a junior leader, advanced leader, and then as a camp counselor exemplifies youth development.
Summer’s camp leadership journey began four summers ago in the youth leadership program. “Every year I changed,” she remembers. “What was difficult for me one year, became comfortable the next.” Her journey was one of gaining confidence in her abilities, with the support of Day Camps staff. Summer says that, whenever she or another youth leadership program participant felt hesitant to try something new, “it was a team effort in helping everyone feel supported and comfortable.”
According to a recent internal survey, youth like Summer who join our leadership camp programs experience a significant increase in their teamwork skills, independence, and their ability to set and attain goals. What’s more, 68% of campers said this program had a positive impact on their health. Best of all, though, participants learn leadership skills by example. “To be a good leader, you need to know what a good leader looks like,” Summer says.
The results of this work are evident for Summer: “Less than 2 years ago I was a youth leader,” she says. “Now, I have been a camp counselor at the Toronto Island YMCA Day Camp and I have worked at the Cooper Koo Family YMCA in Child Minding and have filled in for a dance instructor position for some time. I know that without the program, I would not have had the opportunities I have had this past year with the YMCA.”