Who is a ‘CIT’? An abbreviation for counselor-in-training, a CIT is typically a teenaged camper in transition from a camper to a counselor. CITs are often seen as having a “hybrid” or “in-between” role as they navigate their new role at camp. They are no longer a camper, but not yet a counselor.
So, what do we do with these in-between camp participants? The best part about a CIT program is that it can be mutually beneficial for the camp and the CITs themselves. In a well-developed CIT program, CITs can develop lifelong leadership skills, form lasting friendships, and learn the ins and outs of your camp’s counselor/leader program.
A CIT program is not only an opportunity to change their perspective on camp, but it can also be a life-changing experience. By providing them with a different view of camp, and even a different schedule than the rest of campers, we can help ease the transition from camper to counselor, provide a different camp view, and even instill a sense of long-term volunteer pride.
For this reason, it can be easy to overlook or undervalue at CIT. “They’re too old for the kid activities”, or “they’re too young to watch over campers” are common phrases thrown around when discussing what to do with CITs at a camp session.
For this reasons, it is crucial to look a “deficit” way of thinking. Simply put, this is when we focus too much on what someone lacks, rather than what they have. For example, a ‘deficit’ way of thinking would be too focus on how ‘too young’ or ‘too old’ a CIT is. It is much more beneficial to focus on what they are, rather than what they are not. CITs are an integral part of a camp. They’re experienced camp participants who bring a unique perspective. They are yearning for leadership and can handle that little extra responsibility.
There are countless theories and best practices for developing a youth leadership program. One of the most famous theories is commonly referred to as the “Ladder of Youth Participation”, or “Ladder of Children’s Participation”. In 1997, sociologist Roger Hart wrote a book called Children’s Participation: The Theory And Practice Of Involving Young Citizens In Community Development And Environmental Care for UNICEF.
When you go about your typical day planning your camp session, chances are no one is going to ask or question which “theoretical framework” you are basing everything on (well, unless you work at a university or some kind of educational camp, then, perhaps, someone will!). Regardless of whether or not you have to answer that question, you should have a solid understanding of why you do what you do. You want to connect the what with the why. So, what kind of activities do you have in your CIT program? And why do you have them?
We find that the best camp is run with a mixture of theory and practice. Hart’s ladder of participation is a groundbreaking piece of work in youth development.