Advisory Group Final Report
The recommendations in this report are based on thoughtful discussion amongst the members of the Youth and Family Programs Advisory Group. They come from two years of conversations and interactions with a cross-section of Chautauquans and a variety of experiences. The Youth and Family Programs Advisory Group is not in charge of making programming or budgetary decisions for Chautauqua. We recognize there may be limitations to some of these recommendations that go beyond our knowledge of Youth Programming. Every recommendation is based on a best-case scenario and is made with the hope of improving and moving Chautauqua forward for many generations to come.
Children’s School/Group One/Boys and Girls Club:
- Through multiple conversations with seasonal staff, it is apparent that there is a need and a desire for more training opportunities for working with children/adolescents at Chautauqua. It is recommended that Chautauqua provide more training opportunities, both in-person and online, to help drive a more informed and educated staff.
- Based on conversations with Children’s School/Group One teachers and Boys and Girls Club counselors, it is recommended that there is training specific to working with children with special needs. This has been identified by the community and the seasonal staff as an area that needs more attention.
- There has been significant discussion in the community about increasing the accessibility of youth programming for children with special needs. With Chautauqua’s recent hiring of Amit Taneja, Senior Vice President and Chief Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) Officer, it is recommended that Chautauqua hire an Inclusion Specialist/ADA Coordinator to work with Mr. Taneja and Youth Programming. It is the intention of the person in this position to serve as a liaison for family members of individuals with special needs and assist in accessing youth programming at Chautauqua.
- One of Chautauqua’s best assets is the diverse and talented staff that is hired to bring a summer season to life. Returning staff is essential to the magic that is Chautauqua and encouraging and facilitating this directly relates to the staff’s connectedness to Chautauqua. With this in mind, it is recommended that orientation for all new and returning Youth Programming employees includes a tour of the grounds, history of Chautauqua, and better integration into the community. It is further recommended that Chautauqua conduct a market compensation analysis and review to assess if wages in Youth Programming are competitive, as this further contributes to retaining talent.
- Utilizing local resources (e.g., Chautauqua County schools) and relationships with colleges, universities, and training programs could further strengthen the offerings in Youth Programming. In previous years, Youth Programming has created opportunities for supervised student teaching hours and volunteer experiences for high school students. It is recommended that Chautauqua work to create partnerships to facilitate internships and training opportunities in Youth Programming.
- For years the staffing shortages during week 9 have led to concern about unsafe group levels and subpar experiences at Children’s School, Group One, and Boys and Girls Club. Possible solutions that were shared during the listening sessions included shortening youth programming to weeks 1-8 and offering youth-centered Special Studies courses during week 9. The Youth and Family Programs Advisory Group recognizes this concern and recommends that Institutional and seasonal leadership staff work together to develop solutions to address these problems in Youth Programming.
- To address a need of some families for continuous programming and child supervision during the 12-2pm timeframe, it is recommended that Boys and Girls Club offer an opt-in lunch program. This program will provide supervised and structured programming from 12-2pm and be available to those that choose to utilize this service. It is also recommended that the pricing structure for Boys and Girls Club reflects the choice to use the lunch program for those that choose to opt-in.
- In an effort to increase inclusion within Youth Programming, it is recommended that registration forms are modified to include a non-binary option and allow for self-selection into groups based on gender identity.
- There has been feedback from clubbers and counselors that the current schedule of activities at Boys and Girls Club is unbalanced between arts and athletics. It is recommended that the daily activity schedule is adjusted to provide a more balanced agenda for all age groups (e.g., music is available to all age/gender groups). In addition, it is recommended that the schedule provide opportunity for some co-ed activities.
- The community expressed a desire for the timing of youth-centered courses offered by Special Studies to consider participants engaged in Youth Programming when making schedules. Providing an opportunity for the youth of Chautauqua to engage in more activities is a benefit to the individual as well as the community. In addition, options that currently exist for overlap in Youth Programming and Recreation (i.e., Boys and Girls Club, Sailing, Tennis, and Golf) need a fee structure that is clearly communicated to patrons. It is recommended that Special Studies, as well as the Recreation Department, work more closely with Youth Programming to creatively structure their offerings to maximize engagement with the community.
- In the summer of 2021, Youth Programming introduced the use of the CampDoc software program for Children’s School, Group One, and Boys and Girls Club. This program was well received by the community; however, it was not used to its full potential. The registration process for Youth Programming was disjointed, time consuming, and cumbersome to navigate due to the use of the phone queue in 2021. It is recommended that registration for Youth Programming utilize the CampDoc software to streamline the process and make it more efficient for patrons. In addition, features of CampDoc that increase communication between Youth Programming and families would be beneficial (i.e., texting options, posting weekly newsletters, sharing schedules, and encouraging communication between parents and counselors/teachers).
- Currently Youth Programming options are available for children over the age of 3, leaving a gap in options for families with young children. This creates a barrier for families to engage with Chautauqua’s programming across multiple departments. To increase access to Chautauqua and facilitate the connection from a young age, it is recommended that Chautauqua work to create youth programming options for children under age 3.
- The formation of the Youth and Family Programs Advisory Group was initially driven by the community response to proposed changes in Youth Programming, including single-sex groupings at Boys and Girls Club. The rationale for this proposed change was to address state-mandated regulations on staff-camper ratios (particularly at the end of the season), the financial sustainability of the program, and the inclusivity of Boys and Girls Club. Overwhelmingly, community members expressed a desire to preserve the single-sex group design at Boys and Girls Club. The Youth and Family Programs Advisory Group believes that the intention of the initial proposed change can be addressed in a multitude of other ways that allow the single-sex structure to remain in place. Therefore, it is recommended that the single-sex group structure at Boys and Girls Club remains intact moving forward.
- There is an immediate need for maintenance and repair of physical buildings on the campus of Boys and Girls Club, Children’s School, and Group One. It is recommended that Chautauqua create a proactive yearly maintenance schedule for these facilities that accounts for necessary safety precautions as well as prolonging the life of the current structures.
- Based on conversations with seasonal leadership staff, the condition of playgrounds at Boys and Girls Club and Children’s School are of significant concern. It is recommended that assessments of both structures be conducted for replacement with more updated, accessible, and safe equipment.
- Children’s School, Group One, and Boys and Girls Club appear to be making do with outdated, broken, and incomplete equipment. It is recommended that the materials used for activities and games (i.e., toys, board games, athletic equipment) be repaired or replaced.
Youth Activities Center (YAC)/Former College Club:
- The YAC is a beloved and central component to youth engagement in Chautauqua. The success of the YAC can be attributed to the dedication of the Director as well as the relationships that have been formed with the 12–15-year-old participants over the years. It is necessary to have someone in this same role for the 16–20-year-old age group. It is recommended that Chautauqua hire a coordinator for the former College Club to build this program for generations to come.
- Communication about youth-centered activities and opportunities is an area that could be improved. Younger Chautauquans utilize social media differently and rely on it for receiving and disseminating information. This is a chance for Chautauqua to generate an opportunity for youth to gain experience and increase the connectedness of the younger generation to Chautauqua. It is recommended that Youth Programming create a formal internship in social media communications to address this need.
- A mainstay of the YAC has been the dances that are held every summer. Dances are a highly anticipated and well-attended youth event. There has been request from both the 12-15- and 16–20-year-old age groups to have a minimum of 3 dances each summer at both the YAC and the former College Club.
- A major issue at the former College Club was the hours that the facility was open did not match with the needs of the clientele. It has been requested by the 16–20-year-old group that the former College Club be open until midnight during the season.
- In recent years the hours of the YAC have decreased and it is no longer open on the weekends. This creates a deficit in youth-centric opportunities, as Saturdays and Sundays have limited youth programming options available. It is recommended that both the YAC and former College Club extend their hours to accommodate younger Chautauquans on the weekends.
- When adolescents age out of Boys and Girls Club there is a lack of age-appropriate programming available for them. Parents have been vocal that this is a crucial time developmentally to provide safe and supervised activities that keep 16–20-year-olds engaged with Chautauqua in a healthy manner. It has been suggested that organized informal activities (i.e., pickup basketball/softball/ soccer/football games) that are available on a drop-in and seasonal basis is one avenue to address this need. It is recommended that the Recreation Department work with Youth Programming to address this gap in services.
- There is a need for a designated space for 16–20-year-olds to congregate, socialize, and further develop their bonds to Chautauqua. With the opening of 3 Taps in the Pier Club building, a new space is needed for the 16-20-year-olds to call home. It is recommended that Chautauqua invest in this age group by creating a dedicated space for 16–20-year-old Chautauquans.
- The listening sessions conducted by the Youth and Family Advisory Group have highlighted the need for improved communication between Chautauqua and its community members.
- The use of “head of household” data for communications from Chautauqua has left many stakeholders missing out on important information. It is recommended that Chautauqua work to improve data gathering to include current contact information for all gate pass holders, regardless of who purchased the pass. This will increase the likelihood that interested stakeholders will have access to all relevant information in a timely fashion.
- The listening sessions with community members also demonstrated that there is a plethora of knowledge and expertise in the employees of various departments within Chautauqua. This appears to be an under-utilized resource as Chautauqua works to understand the grounds and how the community members utilize the spaces and programs. It is recommended that the Institution conduct its own listening sessions with the IT, Buildings and Grounds, Housekeeping, Ticketing, Hospitality, and Transportation departments.
- The listening sessions have shown that the Chautauqua community is active, invested, and looking to be engaged with the administration as Chautauqua continues to move towards the future. The Youth and Family Programs Advisory Group was thrilled to have this level of engagement with the community and was amazed with the creativity and thoughtfulness people put into looking for solutions to some of Chautauqua’s challenges. It is recommended that Chautauqua develop an equitable and accessible system for engaging the community in open dialogue and the exchange of ideas.
- The financial health and sustainability of Youth Programming is a necessary component of its success. In conversation with community members, it has become apparent that there are significant and necessary needs for Youth Programming, both on a one-off and continual basis. It is recommended that a fundraising vehicle specifically aimed at supporting Youth Programming is created and supported by Chautauqua. The Youth and Family Programs Advisory Group recommends a twofold approach to fundraising for Youth Programming. The first piece would be to encourage annual, outright gifts which are restricted to family and youth programs. The second component would be to support a Family and Youth Programs Endowment. This is a long-term strategy which ensures sustainability for all youth and family programs.
- Furthermore, it is recommended that current fundraising activities conducted in Children’s School, Group One, and Boys and Girls Club (i.e., Airband, Club Carnival, Children’s School Bake Sale, etc.) should have all funds raised used exclusively to meet Youth Programming needs.
- During the listening sessions, youth participants expressed a desire to have an informal gathering in Bestor Plaza on Sundays to welcome those that have just arrived in Chautauqua. This would assist in creating connections between new and returning Chautauquans as well as facilitate information sharing for the week to come. It is recommended that Youth Programming work to develop a weekly informal meet-and-greet event to address this need from the community.
Chautauquans with Special Needs
- The grounds of Chautauqua are a special place to countless people for so many reasons. As with most historic places, accessibility is a challenge in the physical spaces. As Chautauqua looks toward the future there are a variety of avenues to increase accessibility and inclusivity in physical spaces as well as in the spirit of Chautauqua.
- It is recommended that Chautauqua create a Grounds Access Map to highlight accessible buildings, bathrooms, and facilities.
- It is recommended that Chautauqua actively state that it welcomes differences and embraces them within the community. This can be done by better representation in the literature about programs, visuals on the website, and other marketing materials.
- It is recommended that Chautauqua consider programming that educates and enlightens the community about people with special needs, possibly through Amphitheater lectures, visiting guests, and Special Studies courses. In addition, it is recommended that Special Studies considers offering a course of “supervised play” at times that would benefit families with members with special needs.
- Some families with special needs require an aide to engage in programming in Chautauqua (i.e., as an assist to participating in Youth Programming or as a caretaker for an elderly family member in the home). As Chautauqua is a vacation destination for most, this can be difficult to access in a community away from home. It is recommended that Chautauqua help facilitate access to these resources by creating relationships with local service agencies, colleges, universities, and Medicaid providers.
- It is recommended that Chautauqua develop a “navigator” program that helps engage families with special needs before, during, and after their visit to Chautauqua. This program would help families prepare for their visit and have appropriate resources and accommodations arranged so they can fully engage in the Chautauqua experience. In addition, the “navigator” can serve as a resource while the family is on the grounds. This level of service can increase a family’s connectedness to Chautauqua and help make Chautauqua a recurring destination for these families.