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Special Camps…for Special People

By Denebola
Published: September 2007

By Lia Pagliuso

Summer is over, but instead of the usual moans of protest about going back to school, most complaints were about leaving summer camp.

Camp is a joyful place where everyone can take a break from the hard, tiring hours of school with people who they can relate to while participating in activities they love.

Unfortunately, most camps have a maximum age requirement, and many high school students are now too old to return to camp. Although some ex-campers have the chance to become a CITs at their camps, the opportunity is often exclusive and sometimes even unavailable.

In order to solve this problem, many high school students are now going to more sophisticated camps and summer institutes that specialize in their specific interests, talents, or even religion. This gives older kids a chance to have a more personal experience with people their age who share their passions.

Specialized camps are often perceived to create an exceedingly competitive environment. Senior Antonia Lassar, however, didn’t feel any sense of competition while attending the exclusive National High School Institute of Theatre Arts in Illinois. “Strangely enough, it was completely relaxed,” Lassar said.

“I thought a theatre program that selected 160 best actors in the country would be horrifically competitive, but it wasn’t. I made 159 best friends, and honestly will never lose touch with [them]!”

Sophomore Rebecca Fleisher agrees with Lassar. As one of the few kids to attend the new “Idol Camp” this summer, an exclusive camp based on the international television hit, American Idol, Fleisher expected that “the camp would be very competitive.”

She ultimately found it to be the exact opposite. “Everyone was so supportive of each other,” she said. “It really was a place to grow and learn.”

While outsiders often believe that specialized camps are too intense or stressful, the reason that campers attend them is to improve their skills and spend time with people who share their interests.

At Camp Young Judea (YJ) sophomore Becca Goldstein was able to make connections with other Jewish teenagers, as well as partake in swimming lessons, arts and crafts, music, and dance classes. Although it hosts a variety of modern camp activities, the camp upholds Jewish traditions by offering religious services on the Sabbath, serving kosher food, and offering classes on Judaism.

At junior Annalise Littman’s French Immersion camp her activities were similar to those offered at many other camps with one major difference: the only language spoken was French. The camp was a program “where one hears and speaks French all the time and participates in all activities in French,” said Littman, who feels that the experience has increased her knowledge of the French language.

Specialized camps often draw an international crowd. While Littman’s French Immersion camp was a home to citizens from countries such as Germany, Spain, and Mexico, Groob met people all the way from Russia and Singapore.

Despite the differences between each camp, most campers agree that their favorite thing about camp is the people they met.

“The best part about [camp] was all the love and respect that everyone had for each other,” Lassar said. “It truly taught me not just how to be a better actress, but a better person.”

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