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Turning partnerships into positive results.

Partnership, collaboration, teamwork, association, alliance. These and other common buzz words are often used to describe the methods by which many community-based programs are delivered. Being a 4-H agent in a rural county in Oregon, I've found that in order to reach the intended audience, I sometimes need to pull community partners together in order to meet the established program goals.

The Need

One example is the Curry County Youth Leadership Camp. The camp was developed because of the need to provide educational programming during the summer for junior high youth. As a result of funding cuts, the Central Curry School District summer recreation program had been drastically reduced. Many youth in this rural area (town size is 2,000) would not have been involved in any outside educational or recreational programs during the summer.

Previously, the Curry County office of the Oregon State University Extension Service had collaborated with the school district on a variety of educational programs. So, a small committee went to work and developed a program that would offer leadership, team-building, problem-solving, organizational, and public-speaking skills and fun all rolled up together. The committee included participants from schools and 4-H--and it was open to both youth and adults. The result was Curry County Youth Leadership Camp.

The Program

The Youth Leadership Camp is offered to youth in grades seven through nine--mainly because other programs were available to youth in the other age levels. The county 4-H program already reaches many youth from the county, but most traditional programs--such as the 4-H summer resident camp which I direct--reach either the junior campers (fourth through sixth grade) or the senior counselors (ninth through twelfth grade). The camp was pilot-tested for the first time during July 2004. For the two-day camp, participants traveled up the Oregon coast nearly 130 miles to Camp Baker. The camp, owned and operated by the Boy Scouts of America, offers leadership training in a challenge-based camp setting. Qualified facilitators led youth on a climbing tower and a low and a high ropes course to develop trust and leadership skills within the group. Following the one-day session at Camp Baker, the group spent a partial day at the nearby Oregon Dunes State Park. At the dunes, the campers drove dune buggies and were led in team-building exercises. The participants stayed overnight in a school, which helped to keep lodging costs down. Thirteen campers and two adult chaperones participated in this camp. Both partners (the school district and 4-H Leaders Association) agreed to partially fund this camp with a budget of approximately $1,000. The school district assisted by providing bus transportation at a reduced price and donated the driver's time and expenses. The 4-H leaders contributed support, supplies, and staff to train chaperones, co-direct the camp, and provide follow-up after the camp. In addition, each participant contributed $40 and had to apply in order to attend.

The Results

The results from this unique camp program have been very evident and have shown that program goals have been met. They include:

* Upon completion of the Youth Leadership Camp--continued and/or increased participation in 4-H programs by the program participants.

* An increase in the visibility of youth development programs in the county--newspaper, radio, and Web site coverage will help promote the camp and showcase the partnership efforts.

* An increase of similar educational partnerships--because of the success of the Youth Leadership Camp, other community partnerships will be formed to offer education to their prospective audiences.

* County Fair educational exhibit--participants will make and display an educational exhibit at the County Fair that showcases the Youth Leadership Camp.

The Educational Component of Camp

Camps across America are establishing that they are no longer simply a place for children to have fun, but also a partner in the educational process and in the development of youth. Camp directors recognize that the same activities and programs that their camps have traditionally offered can be packaged as highly effective alternative learning models. As education officials search for solutions to bridging educational gaps because of budget cuts, camps are uniquely positioned to fill these gaps with proven, effective programming.

Camp and Community Partnerships

Educational partnerships that involve the community are becoming a reality for camps. Camps, because of their unique role in the education and growth of children, are developing innovative programs that help reduce summer learning loss, bolster academic enrichment and student socialization, provide opportunities for leadership development, and ensure that our young people achieve their full potential. Our leadership camp is an example of that.

As discovered with the Curry County Youth Leadership Camp, community partners are willing to invest in time, energy, and resources in order to bring about a positive, educational offering for the youth from their community.

Camps: An Expanded Role

By marketing their programs and facilities, camps can provide opportunities for the youth in their communities to develop leadership and social competencies and build self-esteem--assets that will serve these youth throughout their lives--providing them with the skills that will help them perform better in their communities, in their classrooms, and as adults.

In order to create an effective community-based partnership, it's important to have the proper balance among the participants. Balance is a characteristic of healthy communities, and a healthy community always balances the needs and interests of the group with the needs and interests of persons (DePree 1997).

Fostering New Partnerships

The Curry County Youth Leadership Camp program may have long-lasting effects in the community because it has fostered further partnerships between community agencies and organizations to address new educational opportunities. During a recent community needs assessment, sponsored by the Oregon State University (OSU) Extension Service, three strategic directions were identified:

* Strengthening Communities and Economics

* Sustaining Natural Resources and Agriculture

* Enhancing Families, Youth, and Health

All three strategic directions support the primary goal of the OSU Extension Service of Building Sustainable Communities. Programs such as the Youth Leadership Camp enable community partners to come together to reach their clientele and promote a more healthy and capable community. OSU Extension Service is able to be more effective in reaching into the community because of these partnerships.

Camp programs that choose to view their programs as viable options in a child's educational and social development will be the ones that are successful in the future. Those that work with schools and community organizations to offer programs and activities will not only complement the school-year curriculum but also extend the learning process year-round.

Creating Camp-School Partnerships: A Guidebook to Success (MS Word - 164k) Eight Characteristics of a Successful Partnership (PDF)

References

DePree (1997). Leading without Power: Finding Hope in Serving Community. (First Edition. pp. 63-67). San Francisco, CA. Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Resources

Northwest Educational Laboratory (NWREL): Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) SERVEnet American Community Partnerships

Doug Hart has a B.A. and an M.A. from Oregon State University. He is an associate professor at OSU and has worked at the OSU Extension Service for sixteen years. Hart is the 4-H agent/staff chairman for the Curry County/OSU Extension Service in Gold Beach, Oregon, and has directed numerous county and regional 4-H resident and day camps.
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Author:Hart, Doug
Publication:Camping Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2006
Words:1186
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