School of Education


Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction (EdD)


Terrell Elam


4 H Camp, 4 H Camp teen leaders, relational developmental systems theory, self-determination theory, motivation, contribution, positive youth development, education


Curriculum and Instruction | Education


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe the lived experiences that motivate teenagers to volunteer as 4 H Camp teen leaders in Virginia. The theories guiding this study were Lerner and Overton’s relational developmental systems theory (RDST) and Ryan and Deci’s self-determination theory (SDT). They relate to the developmental connection between an individual and the surrounding context and internal and external influences as motivating factors, respectively. The two theories together informed this study which sought to answer the central research question “What lived experiences do teens identify that motivate them to volunteer as 4 H Camp teen leaders?” This study followed a qualitative, phenomenological design to capture descriptions from the teenage perspective. Sixteen 4 H Camp teen leaders, in at minimum, their second year of service, provided data through interviews and observations during 4 H Camp. Five of these participants also provided data through focus group participation. Analysis through horizonalization using both in vivo and focused coding yielded findings that add to the literature on the subject. Findings indicated that the three primary reasons teenagers volunteer as 4 H Camp teen leaders in Virginia are the 4 H Camp culture, connections with others, and feelings toward contribution.