A case study of teen leadership development within a 4-H camp counselor experience
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Utilizing teens as camp counselors for overnight camping is common within Missouri 4-H. It is also an experience that is often described as providing teens an opportunity to develop leadership skills. The purpose of this multi-case study was to describe and uncover the processes and structures that support teen leadership development experiences provided by Missouri 4-H through the camp counselor experience, as perceived by the program directors and participants; to describe how program directors utilized camp counselors training and implementation at camp to develop teen leadership. Through extensive participant interviews, photo elicitation, and document analysis, four themes emerged. Data were analyzed utilizing three frameworks: Hart's Ladder of Participation (Hart, 1992), Leadership Identity Development (LID) model (Komives et al., 2005, 2006, and 2009), and Western's (2019) four discourses of leadership. An overarching understanding developed from this study. While good things are happening at camp, and that counselors look forward to coming back each year, the philosophical intent of program directors to provide an environment to support leadership development is not present in the structure and processes. Findings suggest the following: (a) there is conflation between relationship development and leadership development, (b) the primary role of counselors is to manage camper behavior, (c) tradition is highly prioritized, (d) and evidence that leadership development is supported through the counselor experience is lacking.