Enrolling in a leadership camp has many benefits for children and teenagers. Beyond just pure fun, summer leadership camps help build a number of personal skills and values that apply well beyond middle and high school.

Many times, parents are so anxious to register for a summer camp, they forget to really consider what the actual benefits will be for their child in making a camp selection.

So, take your time to think through the benefits for your child as you explore different options, but in particular, check out leadership camps geared for middle school and high school. These kinds of camp experiences will ensure your child develops mentally, physically, socially, and emotionally.

10 Ways Leadership Camps Benefit Children and Teens 

  1. Develop Personal Accountability – If a child or teenager is going to figure out how to be responsible without adult direction and interference, a leadership camp is a great place to start. Campers learn how to follow a daily schedule, select activities, and take responsibility for their actions. Basically, middle and high school campers learn how to take charge of themselves, something every parent should want for their child. Of course, campers are guided and mentored by adult camp counselors and staff, but there is definitely an emphasis on personal accountability at all times, especially at leadership camps.
  2. Coach, Lead, and Follow – Taking charge of others entails looking at everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, knowing how to delegate, motivate, and organize. Leadership camps are a great way to learn actual management and leadership skills that will prove useful throughout life. Knowing how to direct, lead, delegate, manage, inspire, and work in teams, are all critical real-world life and management level skills.
  3. Improve Communication Skills – Leadership camps generally require campers to voice opinions, share ideas, present, and socialize. Some leadership camps also integrate both verbal and written exercises into the daily activities, so campers can accelerate and improve communication skills. Campers learn how to articulate their thoughts, ideas, and choices to participate fully in camp activities.
  4. Resolve Conflicts – Camp is a great way for children and teenagers to figure out how to get along with others. Typically, campers come from various locations nationally and even internationally, especially at summer camps located on boarding school campuses. Campers are exposed to different cultural, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds. Living with a roommate and doing activities in groups requires the ability to adapt, understand other perspectives, and appreciate priorities other than one’s own.
  5. Set Goals  – Leadership camps, in particular, require campers to strive, aspire, and set goals for themselves. Many leadership camps offer a number of activities where there are built-in goals, such as the completion of a physical obstacle course, drill exercises, or specific hands-on projects. These kinds of hands-on experiences allow campers to set individual and collective goals, figure out how to prioritize, and learn how to make sound decisions. Leadership camps are known for cultivating a mindset that stimulates this type of goal-oriented thinking.
  6. Motivate Self and Others – Without motivation, teenagers, in particular, tend to lose their sense of direction and purpose. Learning how to self-motivate as well as how to get others motivated to do and try new things make camp experience dynamic and interesting. It also establishes good habits to motivate kids to get out of their shells, go beyond their comfort zones, stay off their phones, stay on schedule, take care of personal hygiene and nutrition, and engage 24/7 in various activities.
  7. Problem Solve – By the time a child reaches middle or high school, it becomes more and more important for them to learn how to solve their own problems. A leadership camp requires decision-making, problem-solving, and work on various projects and activities. Some leadership camps even incorporate electives in specialized areas of interest, such as: cyber security, aviation, or ESOL. These mental activities require high focus, analytical, and problem-solving skills that help develop executive function skills.
  8. Build Confidence – There isn’t a child or a teen who cannot benefit from greater confidence, so leadership camps help with self-esteem, self-worth, stress management, and other skills that lead to a more positive self-view. In today’s world, children and teens are riddled with anxiety and stress, often because they have not been faced with challenging experiences that build up their tenacity and perseverance. Leadership camp can give individuals and groups a chance to shine, stand out, take charge, and showcase their abilities and talents. This all leads to great self-esteem and confidence.
  9. Choose and Build Friendships – Learning how to make new friends is one of the core aspects of summer leadership camps. In some cases, kids make life-long friendships at these types of camps. This is probably due to putting oneself to the test, setting goals, leading and following, all of which tend to build close bonds. While away from home, summer campers figure out who to hang out with, how to be a good friend, and whether to go along with negative individual or group influences.
  10. Foster Emotional Intelligence – Self-awareness and the ability to understand yourself and others at a deep level is so important for young people and leadership camps focus on all of the elements. “According to Daniel Goleman , an American psychologist who helped to popularize emotional intelligence, there are five key elements to it: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.”

Ask the Right Questions about Summer Programs

To maximize the benefits of a leadership camp, sit down as a family to think through the questions below. Once you have completed that exercise, then begin reaching out to your top summer leadership camp selections based upon your criteria.

Here are some ideas to discuss as a family.

  • How do you want your child to benefit from a leadership camp?
  • Where do you prefer the camp to be located?
  • Do you want your child to experience an on-campus environment?
  • Are you looking for a middle school or high school camp?
  • Do you have any health or nutrition concerns?
  • What types of activities does your child enjoy most?
  • Do you have any specific goals for your child?
  • Do you prefer coed or single gender camps?
  • Do you have an age range preference?
  • Are there specific things your child would like to experience or learn?
  • What kinds of activities, beyond leadership, are you seeking?
  • Is your child planning to use summer experience on their college applications?
  • Is your child planning to apply to a top military service academy like West Point or Annapolis?

Find the Right Summer Leadership Camp

Now that you have started to narrow things down, you will be able to do your research with the various benefits and criteria in mind. Summer camps all come with many benefits, but choosing a leadership camp, especially the right one for your child, has the potential to have a significant impact during the school year, as well as for college, career, and life.

While some leadership camps take place through organizations like the YMCA, faith-based summer camps, or other on-site programs, some are held on campus at private schools or at public and private universities. So, for instance, if your child is trying to enhance college applications or attend a top service academy, make sure you check out leadership summer programs held at military boarding schools.

Questions to Ask the Summer Program Staff: 

  • Who conducts the leadership training?
  • Is there a daily structured schedule?
  • What kinds of activities, trips, and experiences are offered?
  • Does the camp offer any focused electives?
  • What are the safety and security measures?
  • What kind of counselors does your camp hire?
  • What is the housing situation? How are roommates selected?
  • Is the camp accredited? For how long and what type?
  • What kinds of facilities does the camp offer?
  • What meal options are available?
  • What kinds of kids attend the camp?
  • Does the year-round staff work at the camp?
  • Is the camp located near public transportation?
  • Who monitors dorm checks, daily hygiene, nutrition, and dress codes?
  • Is the camp in a town, city, or rural area?

Summer Camps – Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. What should I look for on the website? When doing your research, make sure you look at the camp description, daily schedule, staffing, location, leadership training, and activities, as well as electives if applicable. As you explore, ask lots of questions, and engage your child in the final decision.
  2. Should I visit the camp in advance? To check out a summer leadership camp, you can do a virtual or on-campus tour, attend an open house, or just call to speak with the director or staff. If you are vacationing in an area where camps are offered, sometimes they will have last minute openings due to cancellations. Feel free to call to see if your family can go on a brief tour and still register.
  3. Is it too late to register? Although it is best to look for a leadership camp several months to a year in advance, many independent private school camps, for instance, do offer enrollment into the late spring and early summer. Things happen due to family health and other circumstances, so most camps have last minute cancellations and/or maintain waiting lists. Also, most summer camp websites will post if they are no longer accepting applications, but it is wise to call your top list to ask your key questions about key deadlines to apply, register, and make payment.
  4. Do camps offer financial aid? Most camps do not offer financial aid as these are short-term programs; however, some camps do offer incentives for academic year enrollment. This can be in the form of discounts, merit awards, and other incentives.
  5. Do private schools allow campers to apply for their fall program? Actually, as mentioned, some private schools do reserve some fall spaces for campers. By attending camp at a school campus, this enables campers to check out a private school, get to know the faculty and staff, and determine whether they would like to apply for the fall. Check with the Admission Office to explore summer and fall options.

In summary, choosing a leadership camp for your child to attend this summer is an important decision and one that could be a real life-changer. Take the process seriously, do your research, think through the benefits for your child, and talk openly with your child or teenager before applying.