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Illinois Parks & Recreation
May/June 1995 • Volume 26, Number 3

Cruisin' The Colleges
A Cooperative Approach to Teen Programming
by Pamela M. Hunt, M.Ed. and William G. McAdam, CLP
Teens from the Country Club Hills Park District
Teens from the Country Club Hills Park District and Matteson Parks and Recreation Department are "college bound" as part of the agencies' Cruisin' The Colleges cooperative program.

It's no secret that teen programming is difficult. Today's teens are more mobile and have larger disposable incomes than ever before, making their wants more elusive. Surveys are constantly being developed that give results showing what teens desire. Even with this information, teens are still difficult to reach with successful recreation programs. Recreation professionals are faced with becoming more creative when planning teen programs. Creativity is exactly what two Chicago south suburban parks and recreation agencies used to develop a new teen program. These two innovative agencies were the Country Club Hills Park District and the Matteson Parks and Recreation Department.

During January 1994 the authors of this article began talks aimed at combining resources in hopes of decreasing the cancellation rates of both agencies teen programs. The idea of these two agencies offering cooperative programming seemed to be a perfect match. Both agencies serve a multi-cultural community, share at least one high school, and are geographically located within three miles of each other. The two communities are separated only by a forest preserve. It was decided early on that planning, transportation, expenses, supervision and advertising would be shared by both agencies. After initial brainstorming and combining the ideas of the two agencies, a new cooperative teen trip was developed—"Cruisin' The Colleges."

"Cruisin' The Colleges" seemed to be the perfect trip for high school aged teenagers who wanted to check-out several Illinois colleges and universities. The trip was intended to be an introduction of public and private higher education institutions located in the state of Illinois for teens who were interested in further study beyond high school. The program was designed to keep in mind the limited time single or two working parents have available to visit various colleges with their teen. The purpose of the program was to assist in the higher educational search of teens, reduce parental stress created by the amount of time such a search requires, provide a fun and educational overnight program for teens, and open doors for cooperative programming between the two agencies sponsoring the trip.

Before initiating the program the local high schools were contacted to determine if the schools had a similar program. The area high schools did not have such a program. The school counselors thought this program would be worthwhile. The recreation agencies were informed by the high schools that the students are allowed three days excused leave for college searching. The counselors gave their approval of the Cruisin' The Colleges concept, and the planning began.


Illinois Parka & Recreation* May/June 1995 ¦ 9

The teens mimic art at Northern Illinois University.

Advertising was accomplished by the trip appearing in both agencies' seasonal brochures which are received by all residents in the two communities. Original advertisement plans included preparing special flyers and placing newspaper press releases. Enrollment exceeded the maximum very quickly, and additional participants could not be served; therefore, advertisement beyond the agencies' brochures was not necessary. High school counselors were notified of the trip details and asked to share the trip with interested students.

Both recreation agencies agreed to share the trip-related expenses on a per-participant basis, which would be covered by user fees. The Cruisin' The Colleges financial recap shows that this was accomplished.

An agency-owned 14-passenger van was utilize to transport the participants and two chaperons. The other two chaperons followed in a car. The use of in-house vehicles with chaperons driving helped to keep the transportation cost down to fuel only. The agencies have plans to expand the program in the future by utilizing two vans.

A mandatory meeting of all teen participants and their parents was planned and advertised with the trip information. The agencies felt this meeting was critical to the trip's success. The meeting allowed the parents and teens the chance to meet the chaperons, sign all necessary medical release forms, go over a detailed schedule of events, and discuss the rules of the trip.

Parents and teens had the opportunity to complete college admission forms, look at college catalogs, and ask any questions they might have before the trip. All parents attended the meeting with their teens. The meeting alleviated any fears the parents might have had about their teens going on an overnight trip. Strong support for such programming was expressed at the meeting by the parents and teens alike.

No Parents Allowed! A conscience effort was made to allow the teens to experience several colleges and universities of varying size without parental influence. The participants were encouraged to narrow their college choice and bring their parents back to the college on a future visit.

The number of participants was determined by the van size and a strong desire to have a chaperon to student ratio of 1: 3. This ratio allowed for one chaperon in each hotel room. Total registration plus the interest list exceeded 25. These numbers were not anticipated but showed the desire for this type of program by teens and their parents.

As shown in the budget re-cap, full-time salaries were not charged directly to the program. The part-time chaperon was paid a flat $50. All staff meals and football tickets were charged to the program.

It is recommended to choose chaperons that are mature persons over 21 years of age with some recreation experience and familiarity with your agency's policies. The authors recommend utilizing as many full-time experienced staff persons as possible. When undertaking such a trip, recreation professionals must be reminded that they and their agency are responsible for the safety and well being of each participant.



Registration Fee:

$70.00 X 12 participants

$ 840.00



4 rooms x $55.20

$ 220.80

Football Tickets

$20.00 x 16+ $3.00






Three full-time staff


One part-time staff








Cell Phone Usage


Total Expense

$ 729.00


$ 111.00

10* Illinois Parks & Recreation* May/June 1995

A two-day schedule was developed and followed closely. It was decided that a full and sometimes hectic schedule would be better than one with a lot of free time. This scheduled allowed for more experiences and helped to keep the participants from becoming bored. While the main focus of the trip was academic, the social aspect of college life was not forgotten. This was accomplished by the planning of fun events, such as a basketball and football game. The intent was to introduce the teens to the "total" college experience. In most cases the colleges assisted with the details of planning these fun events.


Friday. November 11. 1994

8: 15a.m.


ll: 00a.m.

Arrive Illinois State University

11: 15 a.m.

Speaker on "College Expectations & Success"

12: 30 p.m.

Visit College Exhibit Hall

1: 00 p.m.

Lunch (on own)

1: 30 p.m.

Guided Campus Tour

2: 00 p.m.


3: 30 p.m.

Arrive Lincoln College

3: 45 p.m.

Meet with College Admissions

4: 30 p.m.

Guided Campus Tour

5: 30 p.m

Dinner at College (no charge)

5: 45 p.m.

Check into Hotel

7: 00 p.m.

Attend College Basketball Game (no charge)

9: 30 p.m.

Return to Hotel for Games and Swimming

12: 00 a.m,

Lights Out

Saturday. November 12. 1994

6: 00 a.m.

Rise & Shine

7: 15 a.m.


9: 30 a.m.

Arrive Eastern Illinois University

9: 45 a.m.

Guided Campus Tour

11: 30 a.m.


1: 00 p.m.

Arrive at University of Illinois

2: 30 p.m.

Uof I versus Penn State Football Game

2: 30 p.m.

Lunch at Game (on own)

6: 30 p.m.


8: 45 p.m.


The teen market is a challenge for all recreation professionals, but with a little bit of cooperation and brainstorming there are niches in the teen marketplace that can become programming successes for your agency. Creating leisure programs for teens can be quite stimulating and rewarding. The laughter, smiles, love of learning, awe of adult life, and parent support are just some of the rewards that we as recreation programmers received from this trip. Cruisin' The Colleges has introduced several teens to college life and, hopefully, the field of recreation and leisure. All of this makes the effort of creating and implementing such programs worthwhile.

Teens pose
Teens pose with "HonestAbe" on the campus of Lincoln College.

With two agencies combining their resources and talents such a program was and can be successful for your agency. Combine your resources and ideas with those around you, and the satisfaction of reaching the teens in your area will follow.

Due to the success of the first trip, Cruisin' the Colleges II is scheduled for spring 1995. The trip will visit higher education institutions in northwestern Illinois. If you would like more information on how to get a similar program started in your area, contact the authors or the universities and colleges listed below.




Lincoln College

Mike Duluwin


University of Illinois



Illinois State University



Eastern Illinois University

Admission Office


Northwestern University

Katie Jones


Rockford College

Chris Johnson


Northern Illinois University

Chris Porterfield


Pamela M. Hunt is the Superintendent of Recreation for the Country Club Hills Park District. William G. McAdam is the Recreation Supervisor for the Matteson Parks and Recreation Department. Both authors are members of the South Suburban Parks and Recreation Professional Association and the Illinois Park and Recreation Association.*

Illinois Parks & Recreation ¦ May/June 1995* 11

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