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by Kristen Whiteman, Research Intern

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The Grand Canyon, beautiful sunsets and saguaro cactus all make Arizona a beautiful place to live. On the other side of the coin, unfortunately, Arizona has the dubious distinction of being ranked the third worst state in poverty with 21.2 percent of all Arizonans at or below the poverty line, while the national average is 14.8 percent. There is nothing positive about poverty. In fact, experiencing economic hardship while you are young can be linked to unhealthy risk factors in adults such as alcoholism, drug abuse and severe obesity.

Economic hardship is just one of several Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, that a child may suffer that can cause lifelong damage. In a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente, results indicated that the more ACEs an individual experiences as a youth, the greater the risks are for negative well-being and health problems, such as those listed above. Economic hardship is the most prevalent ACE in Arizona but others include divorce, living with someone who abuses alcohol and either witnessing or being a victim of violence.


Camp Colley can help ameliorate the negative impact that comes from ACEs by providing opportunities for at-risk and underserved youth to become more confident and resilient as they participate at Camp. The Kids at Hope philosophy embodies the program goals of Camp Colley, “Every youth can succeed; no exceptions.”

Sometimes youths face challenges due to poor choices or unfortunate circumstances but Kids at Hope teaches that these youth can develop self-confidence, a desire to pursue an education, aspire to a career and foster strong family ties. This is done by providing our youth with strong, healthy relationships with a caring adult, learning a new skill and/or engaging in healthy risk taking activities, all of which we promote here at Camp Colley.

This philosophy also incorporates some of the same aspects as the Positive Youth Development, or PYD, approach to serving and assisting at-risk youth. The PYD approach focuses on promoting self-efficacy, establishing mutual respect for others and encourages youth to be more responsible in determining their own future. One of the tenets of PYD is that when a youth uses their agency to participate in an activity (like those we have at Camp Colley) that requires concentrated effort over time, real development can take place and these youth feel more in control, higher self-esteem and develop aspirations for education and career attainment.

Camp Colley programs align with both of these philosophies. We believe that disadvantaged youth can succeed if they are given the opportunities to challenge themselves and become more resilient. Yes, our wonderful state of Arizona has a high poverty rate, which has created some negative consequences for all of us. We have found that we can counteract some of this negativity by engaging our at-risk and underserved youth in healthy risk taking and confidence boosting activities, in a caring and safe environment at Camp Colley. We want to help each child be successful, no matter what their situation is!

-Kristen Whiteman, Research Intern

Hyperlinks in article:







Toward a psychology of positive youth development. Larson, Reed W. American Psychologist, Vol 55(1), Jan 2000, 170-183. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.170

Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults. Felitti, Vincent J et al. American Journal of Preventive Medicine , Volume 14 , Issue 4 , 245 – 258

Help provide positive youth development to Phoenix youth. Send a kid to Camp Colley.