Tweens and teens interested in becoming junior counselors through the City of Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department will receive leadership training, which includes learning how to give good instructions, how to make positive requests and how to settle disputes between campers. (Leah Valentine / Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department photo)

The City of Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department offers the largest catalog of camps for youth sports, arts and crafts, nature discovery camps, and more for the summer time. However, did you know that the biggest request from parents is programs for young people ages 12 to 17?

These “tweens” or “young adults” might not have many apparent options for their summer hours. Terry Brown, director of the Parks & Recreation Department, works very hard to make sure that enriching and fun programming is available for kids who are too old to be a camper.

“We try to provide as many programs for tweens during those really important discretionary hours of summer,” she said. “We promote it as a youth leadership opportunity. (When they are done with a session) we can provide letters of recommendation for them and give them community service hours.”

The City of Santa Barbara itself provides three big programs for young adults to increase their leadership skills.

The first is the Junior Counselor Program through the Parks & Recreation Department, in which tweens help supervise campers in the summer camps. Junior counselors get leadership training, which includes learning how to give good instructions, how to make positive requests and how to settle disputes between campers.

“A lot of junior counselors were campers at one point, which is great because they already know the culture of the camps,” Brown said.

Another program that promotes leadership in Santa Barbara teens is the Santa Barbara Youth Council. The council is an advisory board made up of teens from all parts of the community. They identify issues that concern local youth and make recommendations to the Santa Barbara City Council and related committees and boards.

Some of these concerns include bullying, e-cigarettes and the education gap in Santa Barbara.

“These young people get a voice, just like the rest of the adults,” said Susan Young, director of the Youth Council.

Youth Council members meet two times a month and get invaluable experience in communication, teamwork, leadership and community service.

Another program the city provides is the Youth Employment Training Program, also known as the Youth Apprenticeship Program. This job-placement program provides opportunities for at-risk young people ages 14 to 21 to get work experience as an employee of the city or an affiliated business or organization. Many of these young adults have faced challenges such as broken homes, undergoing probation or mental health issues.

“Supervisors at the assigned job sites understand these challenges that the students go through,” said Ricardo Venegas, director of the Youth Apprenticeship Program and Franklin Neighborhood Center. “Students then have a mentor and guide throughout the process.”

Many youth apprentices end up getting permanent positions with their program employers. In 2014, 22 of the 37 participants made the transition to a permanent job from their assigned employer from the apprenticeship.

While these three programs put a big emphasis on leadership and hard work, their directors always aim for participants to have fun.

Click the links below to learn more about these city programs:

» Junior Counselor Program

» Youth Council

» Youth Employment Training Program. Email Ricardo Venegas or call 805.897.2582.