A process evaluation of a challenge high ropes camp for at risk youth

An estimated 1.3 million American high school students drop out of school (American Psychological Association , 2011). Students who drop out of high school are twice as likely to commit crimes than high school graduates (Belfield & Levin, 2009). California Community Partners for Youth (CCPY) is an after school program that operates at two high schools in East San Jose, CA. A critical element of CCPY is the yearly four-day January Camp known as the Retreat Camp Retreat. The purpose of this study was to conduct a process evaluation of the Retreat Camp Training offered by CCPY, which included about 40 participants. Data were collected through direct observations of the Retreat Camp Training on how activities were implemented and the participants’ responses to the camp activities. This study highlighted the importance of having an environment where the youth felt comfortable interacting with each other and engaging in activities. The comfortable environment coupled with caring, supportive, and stable staff led to the development of mutual trust, respect, and new relationships. It was noted that team work and group cohesion also developed, as the youth came together to complete the different activities at the camp. Due to budget cuts, it is important that social workers advocate for funds for programs such as CCPY, which provide youth, who are at risk, the opportunity to participate in intense experiential educational experiences. A recommendation for future research includes having more than one observer at the camp to collaborate and cover all the different activities taking place at the camp at the same time.