Leadership development is a common phrase in teen summer program brochures and websites, but what does teen leadership training really look like?  At Tamarack Farm, leadership development can come in many forms, like leading a construction project, representing the camper council to the Board of Trustees, facilitating a town meeting,  or maybe leading the harvest.  Leadership development can look very different from one teen to another, but one fundamental cornerstone remains the same: trust.

A few summers ago, one of our projects was to rebuild a cabin.  We had one teen who expressed interest in taking a leadership position in that project.  We nurtured that interest into action, providing support and most importantly trust in this teen.  After the first couple weeks, I remember seeing her down there with staff working during free time and sometimes late into the afternoon.  As new groups rotated into working on that project, she oriented them to the project and gave everyone a role.  She met with staff and was committed to finishing the project by summer’s end. She inspired other teens to work beyond the allotted work project time and in the end, there were so many who took pride in the project’s completion.  At the end of the summer that teen described her Tamarack Farm experience:

“Tamarack farm is a place for us to work as a community and learn about ourselves. We have time for work, play, important conversations, and camper empowerment. There is a strong sense of trust between teens and staff,which leads us to take initiative on their own and make their own decisions. Tamarack Farm is a beautiful place where the community forces us to search inside ourselves and find the best person we can be. The skills we learn at the Farm carry on to the outside world as we struggle to make it a better place. A utopia could never exist, but Tamarack Farm is the closest place I have ever found. Tamarack Farm is where I met many of my closest friends and had the best summer of my life.”

When we hear teens reflect on their growth at the Farm, it’s often rooted in them knowing this is a place where they were trusted.   At Tamarack Farm, we believe teens need space to make decisions and express ideas; they need to know we trust that they can and should do this. This doesn’t mean we don’t build (and hold) expectations for the community we share with them; it does mean we step back and find ways for them to step up.  For many teens Tamarack Farm may be the first time they’ve experienced this, we are sure to offer support, feedback, and time for reflection.

At Tamarack Farm we strive to create an atmosphere of trust, supporting teens to discover that they are trustworthy.  We push them to express their ideas and bring them to fruition the result is beautiful.

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