Martinsville, IN (November, 16 2020) — The American Camp Association (ACA) announces an exciting new project that includes a three-year grant program designed to foster evidence-informed planning, testing, and improving initiatives to increase access to and engagement in counselor-in-training (CIT) programs and other qualified leadership programs among young people with diverse backgrounds, abilities, and identities. Previous research suggests that CIT programs represent an important step in the process by which many campers go on to become camp staff. This project will seek to disrupt the pathways that currently allow some young people to move through this camper-to-staff pathway more readily than others.

ACA will award grants to up to 20 day and overnight camps, half of which will represent existing CIT programs, with the other half proposing new CIT programs. Grantees will be paired across cohorts facilitated through a series of virtual and in-person gatherings to maximize opportunities for mentorship and collaboration. At these gatherings, grantees will share and refine ideas, make meaning of formative evaluation data gathered by an external research team, and engage in professional development related to access and inclusion. Over the next three years, grantees will design, test, and improve their CIT programs or outreach initiatives through this work. The project launches in January 2021.

Supporting the granting program, ACA will conduct a landscape scan of effective access and inclusion strategies used in camps and across selected national youth-serving organizations. Led by an external evaluation team and in partnership with ACA’s diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant, findings will be used to inform ACA’s strategic initiatives related to expanding equitable access to camp and shared with grantees to support their design processes.

The third component of the project is the creation of a toolkit that will support the design and implementation of accessible and inclusive CIT programs at day and overnight camps.

The toolkit will be developed by a writing group of camp professionals and include:

  • Summary of access and inclusion strategies identified via the landscape scan
  • Case studies of camps with "exemplar" CIT programs
  • Lessons learned from the grant program, including challenges and promising practices related to developing a new CIT program and implementing outreach initiatives

This toolkit content will be shared through at least three synergistic platforms, including an anchoring workbook; other potential platforms include digital/downloadable content, curricula to support in-person training, and recorded webinars.

ACA President and CEO Tom Rosenberg shared, "Diversity, equity, and inclusion are at the very core of ACA’s strategic plan. This exciting new program will enable ACA to take meaningful steps toward a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive future for the field of organized camp."

This work is made possible by a grant from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies.

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About American Camp Association:

The American Camp Association® (ACA) is a national organization with more than 12,000 individual members and 3,100 member camps. ACA is committed to collaborating with those who believe in quality camp and outdoor experiences for children, youth, and adults. ACA provides advocacy, evidence-based education, and professional development, and is the only independent national accrediting body for the organized camp experience. ACA accredits more than 2,400 diverse US camps. ACA Accreditation provides public evidence of a camp's voluntary commitment to the health, safety, risk management, and overall well-being of campers and staff. For more information, visit ACAcamps.org or call 800-428-2267.

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