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This article by Phyllis B. Maguire was published
in U.S. 1 Newspaper on April 15, 1998. All rights reserved.
For Kids, Places to Escape
I entered the world of summer camps when my son was
eight years old. He’d heard of an overnight camp an hour away and
launched a concerted campaign to go. When I dismissed the idea, saying
he was too young for a two-week sleepaway, he turned to me with a
pained expression. "But Mom," he said, his voice quivering,
"I really need to get away!"
He did get away to camp that summer and every summer since, and now
that he’s a teenager, the urge to go has only grown. While the question
of where to park the kids each summer is of paramount concern to working
parents — and how to enrich long, lazy hours a concern for parents,
period! — camp programs for teens are a special breed.
"It is a tough age group to program for," says Sheryl Perez,
program supervisor of the Princeton Recreation Department which sponsors
five one-week Teen Travel Camp sessions every summer for students
in grades 6 through 9. "They’ve reached the age where they’re
looking for ways to express their independence, and a traditional
day camp isn’t what they’re looking for. They want to experience new
people and places." Factoring in coolness and the appeal of the
extreme, you can’t just keep them in a bunkhouse doing pine cone crafts
Many teen programs are tailored to a specific skill or sport, harnessing
drive and ambition not manifested in younger children and serving
as summertime apprenticeships. Though many teenagers shy away from
activities they haven’t checked out over time, the fact is camp can
be both excellent fun and a relief, an opportunity to enjoy older
teens and adults who don’t bring any emotional baggage.
"Because I’m not their parent, I can be their mentor and their
friend," says Julia Ohm, director of the Hun School Theater Classics
program. With her husband, Mark Young, Ohm conducts the four-week
summer workshop for teens aged 12 through 18. "They’re just on
the verge of being adults, so they’ve formed their areas of interest
and can focus much better than younger children, which is a real asset.
They’re here because they choose to be."
Perhaps more evidently than younger kids, teens often grapple with
issues around becoming part of a new group. "Most of them are
very self-conscious, always thinking about how they look," Ohm
says. "My job is to create an environment of acceptance, so any
comments I offer have to be constructive. To become other people through
acting, they have to give up parts of themselves, and that’s an exercise
in sharing instead of isolation."
Perez points out that the Teen Travel Camps attract a very broad range
of participants, making diversity a big plus in helping teens get
in an adventurous mood. "We get kids from private schools, from
public schools, and from several different grades. They’re children
who might not otherwise be together in a group, and that breaks down
many initial barriers."
Flexibility is the key to planning for children of any age, but camp
directors say it’s even more essential as campers get older. Maryann
Polefka is the director of Oak Spring Day Camp of the Delaware Raritan
Girl Scout Council. "You have to expect the unexpected," she
says, "but as girls get older, they get much less adult-planning
and more activities they structure themselves." Oak Spring holds
six one-week day sessions, with older campers — ages 12 through
16 — asked at the end of each session what activities they’d like
included. This summer’s sessions will feature outdoor cooking, and
fashion and landscape design — all suggestions made last year.
"There is a specific type of adult who truly enjoys working with
teenaged girls," Polefka says. "You see a difference in the
way they approach their day; it’s less structured, with a great deal
of respect for the girls whom they treat almost like peers. The girls
sense that too. They know they’re not just being placated or coddled."
And camps also offer that real needle in the haystack
for suburban teenagers: the opportunity of gainful employ. Most camps,
both day and sleepaway, offer CIT or counselor in training programs.
For teens who feel they have outgrown the role of camper, the authority,
training, and (sometimes) salaries they earn as CITs may help tie
up many of summer’s loose ends.
Most CITs are in their mid-teens, usually 15 or 16 years old. "I’m
looking for kids who can handle freedom as well as responsibility,"
says Suzan Neiger Gould, director of the overnight Camp Onas in Bucks
County. "I want CITs who can initiate activities and get involved
with the kids." Usually, CIT positions at sleepaway camps are
filled with camp veterans, and Gould has never had to hire a CIT "cold."
"Occasionally, when I hire senior counselors, I’ll take someone
who hasn’t come up through the camp," she says. "But with
CITs, I have such a large pool who want to return, I’ve never had
to take outside applicants." The teens who do return as CITs are
usually diehard camp converts. "As a camper, the counselors were
what made camp for me," says one 16-year old Gould hired. "That
was why it was important to get back on staff. I wanted to give younger
kids that same experience." (While 1998 summer sessions at Camp
Onas are already filled, call 610-847-5858 to receive their brochure
If your child has no overnight camp affiliation, CIT programs at day
camps are definitely the way to go. The fact that they are local keeps
the commute reasonable, and since day camps usually enroll many more
younger children, camp directors have more need for aides. The Family
YMCAs of Princeton, South Brunswick, and West Windsor offer two-week
CIT training programs for teens 13 through 15 for $330. The CITs are
then encouraged to volunteer to assist counselors in the YMCA summer
camp sessions. Each of the three branches uses about 10 CITs every
"Even in our camps, they are still very much in training and are
never left alone with younger children," says West Windsor YMCA
branch director Kathy Permito. During training, CITs learn how to
work with children, talk to parents, and plan activities, and they
can receive CPR and First Aid Red Cross certifications.
"It builds character," says Permito. "It gives them a
sense of responsibility and input." The CIT training program has
become more popular over the last two years, and, she says, "we
may eventually have to extend it."
If your child is considering a CIT position, keep these points in
listings indicate, there are camps for just about every hobby, career,
religious affiliation, level of athletic proficiency, or special need.
Steering your child toward a camp where she can showcase a special
talent or interest will let her bring skill and spirit to the job.
Let him take the initiative to phone the director, schedule an interview,
and fill out a form. "The kids have to hand-write their applications,"
says Gould of Camp Onas. "When a parent is all over the application
process, that raises a red flag to me that the child isn’t ready for
day camps, CIT stands for "Campers in Transistion," and CITs
are 13 or 14-year old campers who assist counselors with younger children
during part of the day. For those CITs, "payment" consists
of a reduced fee to their parents. Some CIT positions — like those
with the Family YMCAs — don’t charge parents but pay no money,
while others offer small salaries. And urge your teen to consider
a CIT stint even without payment. Since it is a necessary rung in
the junior and senior counselor ladder — mainstay jobs for high
school and college students — volunteering to learn the ropes
may be a sound invesment for future summers.
be. Some CITs work exclusively with younger children, while others
are assigned chores for a portion of each day. If your teen wants
to work at an overnight camp, can she handle cleaning up after bedwetters
or powerscrubbing communal showers? Here’s the advice camp directors
give to parents to help prepare children to be CITs: give them responsibilities
at home and make sure they follow through.
of your child’s day, particularly if she is off at a sleepaway.
Do CITs get any free time? Can or should they leave camp in cars with
older counselors? What are the camp rules, and what are your expectations?
lasting friendship, learning the in’s and out’s of recreation —
and making plenty of pine cone crafts. "I now can definitely appreciate
the work that goes into maintaining a camp," says another Onas
CIT. "I never thought of how much time it took to mow all those
lawns." Which brings us to the real parental payoff: after your
CIT spends weeks grooming acres of grass or herding a flock of pre-schoolers,
how can he possibly balk at those few chores you find for him to do?
For $19.95, you can have the whole world of American camps at your
fingertips. Each year the American Camping Association publishes its
"Guide to ACA-Accredited Camps," listing over 2,000 day and
overnight programs that have received ACA accreditation. Broken down
by state, the listings give each camp’s emphasis, activities, contact
information, and fees. For information contact the ACA at 5000 State
Road 67 North, Martinsville, Indiana 46151-7902. 800-428-CAMP. Website:
For a few minutes of your time, you can read the listings below and
get an overview of summer camp opportunities in the central New Jersey
area. As you might expect, some camps are already booked for the summer
of ’98. Call ASAP to reserve your spot.
American Boychoir School, 19 Lambert Drive, Princeton
08540. 609-924-5858; fax, 609-924-5812. Home page: http://www.princetonol.com/groups/boychoir.
Albemarle: a choral camp with traditional activities such
as swimming and sports. Apply for next year for boys and girls from
7 to 14. Extension 41.
Art Collaborations, 66 Witherspoon Street, Princeton
08540. Heather Barros, camp director. 609-430-1036;
For ages 4 to 6, mixed media morning program, $120 per
Arts Council of Princeton, 102 Witherspoon Street, Princeton
08542. Anne Reeves, director. 609-924-8777; fax, 609-921-0008.
Arts and drama for ages 4 to 16, one week sessions, half
days or longer, from $125 to $225. Focus on multi-cultural and creative
Artworks, 19 Everett Alley, Trenton 08611. Tricia Fagan,
camp director. 609-394-9436; fax 609-394-9551.
Full-day and half-day sessions on painting, sculpture,
printing, mixed media, puppets, art and nature etc. for ages 5 to
12 from June 22 to August 7, from $100 to $190.
Highland Studio, 14 Mercer Street, Box 40, Hopewell
08525. Karen McLean Peterson, camp director. 609-466-3475.
Painting, crafts, and drawing for ages 6 to 13, also study
of cultures and artists, from June 23 to August 15, half-day weekly
sessions. From $150 to $300 plus materials per week.
The Hun School of Princeton, 176 Edgerstoune Road, Princeton
08540. 609-921-7600; fax, 609-683-4410. Home page: http://www.hun.k12.nj.us.
Hun Summer Theater Classics, four week theater workshop
starting June 29 for ages 12 to 18. Julia Ohm, director.
Mercer County Community College, 1200 Old Trenton Road,
Box B, Trenton 08690. 609-586-4800; fax, 609-587-4666. E-mail: email@example.com.
Home page: http://www.mccc.edu.
Tomato Patch arts workshops for grades 5-12 from June
29 to August 14, $375 to $475, with visual or performing arts studies
culminating in performance/show. Steve Kazakoff, director. 609-586-4800,
McCarter Theater, 91 University Place, Princeton 08540.
Sandy Moskovitz, camp director. 609-683-9100×6166; fax, 609-497-0369.
Home page: http://www.McCarter.org.
Acting classes for rising kindergarteners to 12th graders.
For four weeks in July costing from $135 to $150. Full-day "A
Classic Summer" program for high schoolers from June 22 to July
26 costing $850, auditions Saturday, May 2. Also 10-session classes
in musical theater and in stage combat, August 3-14, $140.
Montgomery Cultural Center, 1860 House, 124 Montgomery
Road, Skillman 08558. Mimi Danson, administrator. 609-921-3272.
Outdoor Art: arts camp for ages 5 to 12 involving the
creation of a four-foot high art museum, painting, pottery, mosaics,
prints, sculpture, batik fabric design, armor, masks, and weaving,
six four-day sessions from July 13 to August 28, $135 per week. Heather
Montgomery Dance Arts, Route 206 South, The Village
Shopper I, Skillman 08558. Jane Venezia, camp director. 609-497-9220.
Dance camp for ages 3 to 16, June 29 to July 30, including
mime, music, and improvisation.
The Peddie School Swig Arts Center, South Main Street,
Box A, Hightstown 08520-1010. 609-490-7550; fax, 609-426-9019. E-mail:
Theater camp with acting, musical theater, and dance,
with one program for ages 8 to 11 and a "Stars of Tomorrow"
for ages 12 to 15, July 6 to August 1, $235 to $425, also visual arts.
Princeton Ballet School, 301 North Harrison Street,
Princeton Shopping Center, Suite C, Princeton 08540. Mary Pat Robertson,
camp director. 609-921-7758; fax, 609-921-3249.
Five week summer workshop for advanced dance students
plus programs and classes for younger students and beginners.
Princeton Center Stage Inc., 79 Snowden Lane, Princeton
08540. Thomas von Oehsen, director. 609-921-0012; fax, 609-921-1036.
Clown Academy for 4th to 9th graders, full days June 22
to July 3 and July 6 to 17 culminating in a "big top" performance
with a band. Unicycling, juggling, stiltwalking, slapstick, gags,
makeup, other skills, with guests from Ringling Brothers. $400 for
two weeks plus $50 materials.
Shoestring Players, Walters Hall, Room 106, Box 270,
New Brunswick 08903-0270. 732-932-9772; fax, 732-932-8586. E-mail:
Creative dramatics clinic for ages 11 to 14, 9 to 12:30
p.m., culminating in a performance of the children’s original play,
on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers, $100.
Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, 1200
Stuart Road, Princeton 08540-1297. 609-921-2330; fax, 609-497-0784.
Home page: http://www.stuart.k12.nj.us.
Visual and performing arts workshops for ages 6 to 13,
June 15 to July 2, $195 per week. Jan Moule, director.
Studio for Fine Ceramic Objects, 159 Van Dyke Road,
Box 96, Hopewell 08525. Beatrice Landolt, camp director. 609-466-0887;
Pottery and painting for ages 5 to 14, June 22 to August
14, two weeks for $560 or $280 mornings only.
Triangle — Your Creative Center, Alternate Route
1 and Darrah Lane, Box 8079, Princeton 08543-8079. 609-883-3600; fax,
Creative Playshops (from cartoons to puppets, mobiles,
and sculpture), ages 6 and up, outside under a tent or in air-conditioned
studios, June 22 to September 4, morning or afternoon $110 per week,
full day $175 per week. Also Adventure Tours, ages 8 to adult, full
days, five weeks beginning June 15, $40 per day to $175 per week.
Mary Wertz, registrar, 609-896-4100.
Villagers Theater, 475 DeMott Lane, Municipal Complex,
Box 6175, Somerset 08875-6175. Janet Cantore-Watson, camp director.
732-873-2710; fax, 732-873-1149.
Theater arts training — acting, dance, movement, vocal
training, music, and production arts — for ages 6 to 18, with
student productions. Half, full, and extended days in three week sessions
from June 29 to August 9, $325 to $525 per session.
Waldorf School of Princeton, 1062 Cherry Hill Road,
Princeton 08540. 609-466-1970; fax, 609-333-9991.
Focus on puppetry, music, art, nature, crafts, and outdoor
play with one three-week sessions starting June 29, 8:30 a.m. to 1
p.m. with extended care available. $425 for ages 4 1/2 to 14.
Westminster Choir College of Rider University, 101 Walnut
Lane, Princeton 08540-3899. 609-921-7100; fax, 609-921-6952. Home
For middle schoolers, high schoolers and adults, week-long
workshops in choral singing, piano, organ, and various aspects of
musicology, $425 to $750. Bruce L. Rickert, director.
Westminster Conservatory of Music, 101 Walnut Lane,
Princeton 08540-3899. 609-921-7104; fax, 609-921-8829. Home page:
Music — from experiential to group lessons to ensemble
work — for ages 4 to 14. One or two week sessions, half or full
day, including "try it out" for new instruments, from July
8 to August 9, from $155 to $585. Locations in Princeton and South
Brunswick. Marianne Lauffer and Kathleen Bullivant, directors.
Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, New
Brunswick 08901-1248. 732-932-7237; fax, 732-932-8201. Home page:
Children’s Art Camp, June 29 to August 7, 9 a.m. to 2
p.m., weekly themes including drawing, painting, printmaking, and
mixed media, $70. Amy Driscoll, extension 614.
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