|dc.description.abstract||Today' s youth have a plethora of choices to make ranging from the simple (Do I want
to eat breakfast today?) to the more difficult (Who will I make friends with? Will I try
drugs/alcohol?). It is the more difficult questions and their answers that have many people
concerned with today' s youth. The answers to those questions may lead them into lives of
criminal activity or lives devoted to attaining scholastic and/or personal success. There are
many factors influencing the answers to the more difficult questions, such as community,
family, teachers, and friends. These factors are essentially forces in young people's decision-making,
pulling them in all sorts of directions as they are attempting to become individuals.
One factor that has become increasingly important is that of community. Many youth
say that they have nothing better to do with their time than "hang out" with their friends on
the streets. This may lead to involvement with drugs, alcohol, gangs, etc. Traditionally the
focus has been on the family and what the family should be doing to curb such activities.
However, these claims of youth indicate that something must be done within the
neighborhoods and communities as well as within the family in order to give them other
opportunities to grow and develop as healthy individuals.
Because of this, over the past several years there has been a growth in neighborhood
and community organizations that provide alternatives to "hanging out" on the streets. These
organizations attempt to address the needs of youth, specifically to "promote the positive,
healthy development of young people" (Building Developmental Assets, Camp Fire
publication). Some of these organizations offer programs for the youth such as summer day
camp, after-school activities, peer mentoring, big brothers/big sisters, and sports club.
Through these programs, organizations hope to make those difficult questions with difficult
answers into difficult questions with simple answers: those that lead to the positive
development of young people.
With the expansion of such organizations, several questions arise. In general, what
are those organizations doing for the youth? What are these alternatives to "hanging out" on
the streets? What is involved in some of the programs offered? Are the programs
implemented and provided by these youth organizations truly meeting their set goals? To
what extent are the young people involved in the program? How may such involvement or
enjoyment be measured? These are the questions that must be examined to determine
whether the existence of youth organizations and their programs are worth the effort, time
One youth organization is Camp Fire Boys and Girls, which was founded in 1910.
Originally, it was an organization only for girls, however in 1975 it was expanded to also
include boys. This organization became a part of West Michigan in 1919. Today it has such
programs in West Michigan as Extending Our Reach, Traditional Club Program, Life Skills
Curriculum, and Special Sitters. The mission of Camp Fire Boys and Girls is "to positively
influence the life development of children and youth through cooperatively developed
This organization believes that evaluation is an essential part of any youth
development program. Because of this, in the summer of 1998 Camp Fire hired me, as an
intern, to conduct an in-depth case study of how the existing summer youth program held at
Oakdale Elementary School is meeting its set goals and objectives. Oakdale Elementary
School is one of three sites located throughout the city of Grand Rapids that are considered to
be high-risk environments. This program is part of the national initiative of Extending Our
Reach, which was designed to provide various activities with the goal of promoting healthy
development in all senses and lower the potential for risk-taking behavior.
This case study provides an opportunity for one to examine the questions and issues
mentioned above. It is my hope that this case study will provide useful information to both
the organization at hand and to other organizations with similar programs. There is little
research conducted on such existing youth programs, and this may be a useful resource for