I love our LIT program… but I’m getting rid of it.

LITs aren’t LITs anymore


Maple Key first opened in 2009. Right from the beginning, we were committed to helping kids in Lanark County develop leadership beyond what they were able to experience with us as campers. We wanted to continue to change the world through these amazing kids. And we wanted to provide a way for our long-time campers who love MKDC to continue to be a meaningful part of their camp community.

That’s how our Leaders-In-Training program was born. And we really meant “leaders” and we really meant “training”. We wanted the program to stand for something.

We really meant “leaders”
– We created an application process, so that only teens who were truly committed to the process would be accepted.
– We created a set of standards to which all LITs would be held accountable.
– We reserved the right to dismiss an LIT from the program if they were not behaving in a way that demonstrated positive leadership (but we always exhaust all efforts to help them first).

We really meant “training”
– We created a schedule that allowed LITs to receive an hour of formal training every day (we didn’t just ask them to “help out” and then call it training).
– We gave counsellors an evaluation form to use as a meaningful way of tracking the LITs progress during their weekly “placements” so that ongoing feedback would be part of the norm.
– We implemented a long-term attendance requirement, because we recognized that leaders are not built in a week.

The integrity of the LIT program has always been extremely important to me. I didn’t want Maple Key LIT “graduates” representing us out there in the community if they didn’t exemplify our leadership standards. I didn’t want to start handing out recommendations and certificates like candy – I’ve never been part of that “everyone gets a trophy” mindset. We’ve never guaranteed a “certificate of completion”. We wanted our LITs to be very proud of their recommendation letter, because they knew that it was something that they had truly earned, and not something they were merely entitled to.

I named the program “Leaders-In-Training” after the other camp programs that I witnessed in my early camp career. I was inspired by the high quality and structure of those programs. At the time, I am relatively certain we were the only day camp offering a “Leader-In-Training” program in all Lanark County.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so they say. Over the past few years, there has been an upsurge in “leaders in training” programs in the area. That’s great – I am very much in favour of having as many leadership opportunities as possible for our soon-to-be-adults. But these programs are all very different – despite the fact that they share a single name. Many of these programs would be more accurately described as a volunteer program, or are designed for a much shorter time commitment. I feel like it’s watering down what leadership training is really supposed to be.

So, in keeping with the uniqueness of our program, our future leaders deserve a unique program NAME to match. As of now, the MKDC “leaders-in-training” program ceases to be, and will be unveiled under a new name. I don’t want there to be any confusion about exactly what we do – and the new name for our program will make things crystal clear.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog post, when I unveil the new program name…

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