July 13, 2016
As you may have read, we spend a lot of time in the off-season thinking about the skills that campers foster at camp, especially the “21st Century Skills” of communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and leadership.
These are the skills that are needed to be successful in later life, but that are not particularly well-cultivated in a traditional school setting. Part of the challenge is the fact that these skills are hard to measure and quantify, unlike SAT scores or GPAs. Yet they are the skills that employers need that are often lacking in college graduates.
Yesterday, I saw some additional validation of this viewpoint.
A long-time camper/counselor/leadership team member asked me to write a letter of recommendation for her admission to medical school.
I opened the email with the instructions and saw the following prompt:
“A substantial evaluation provides an accurate assessment of the applicant’s suitability for medical rather than advocate for the applicant. As such, your description of how the applicant has, or has not, demonstrated any of the following competencies that are necessary for success in medical school is very important: Integrity and Ethics, Reliability and Dependability, Service Orientation, Social/Interpersonal Skills, Teamwork, Capacity for Improvement, Resilience and Adaptability, Cultural Competence and Oral Communication.”
Integrity, reliability, service, social skills, teamwork, resilience and oral communication are all central to our mission and values. I was elated. I felt like the system had been stacked in her favor. While the other candidates would be getting recommendations from lab managers, I was able to show that she had excelled in each of these areas in her 12 years at camp, particularly her 3 as our Sports department head. I was able to be quite specific, including this story about her communication and leadership skills:
“I once saw her have a remarkable talk with a tired soccer instructor. We were in the middle of a heat wave. The temperature had topped 100 degrees for a full week and this day was the hottest yet. The counselor has positioned himself under a tree and was offering instruction to the campers from the shade. She pulled him aside and shared this advice. “I know it is hot. But this is your chance to impact these boys. Sure, none of them will be scholarship soccer players, but at least one of them needs you right now. He might lack confidence in his physical abilities or he might not have a father at home and needs a supportive male role model. You need to be the hero he deserves. But there is a problem. Neither of us knows who this camper is. Since we do not know his identity, we need to be a hero for each of them. Now, if you are too tired today, that is OK. I will happily take your class. But if you have the energy, we owe it to that boy!”
I did not see that counselor sit again that summer.”
I suspect that I sound like a broken record at times, but I feel a strong need to help you see what I see. I want you to see your children honing their interpersonal skills. I would love to find a way you could see them shine as teammates and leaders. I wish you could see them become more resilient.
I would also like you to hear some of the comments I hear from former campers/counselors that are not in the “real world” as they talk about their rapid promotions or entrepreneurial successes. They are quite articulate about the advantages they gleaned from camp.
Someday, our medical applicant will be an extraordinary doctor. I am flattered that I was able to help (even in this incredibly modest way).