Monday, May 18, 2009

Summer Just Days Away, What’s A Kid to Do?

By Wendy Smooth, an assistant professor in the Department of Women’s Studies with a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute

Last week, on the front page of our local paper, The Columbus Dispatch, we learned that summer camps are being hit hard by the financial crisis. The city and other groups that deliver camp services in the local community did not receive some $2.2 million dollars in federal assistance that sent 2,000 low income children to camp last summer. In the absence of these funds, the city is not sure whether it will be able to deliver these services to low income children of the city. This is coupled with parents in all tax brackets across the city saying that they may not be able to afford camp fees this year in light of the economy. I didn’t realize the costs of sending children to camp! The fees range from a low of $85 per week to hundreds of dollars per week to send one child to camp. Well, to some relief, I learned that it is customary to give families with multiple children, a whopping $10 off camp fees $100 or more a week for each child. Now, to be clear I am talking day camps here, not the delightful fancy sleep away camps of Hollywood feature films. I immediately chalked this story up to just another casualty of the financial crisis, another indicator of the reach of the country’s economic despair. Then, I thought more and became critically concerned about what this will mean to thousands of kids. What would these kids do all summer?

I am no big summer camp enthusiast. In fact, I HATED summer camp as a kid, day camp, sleep away or otherwise. As a southerner, camp meant one thing to me—no air conditioning in 95 degree weather with 100% humidity and no rain! Despite my camp history, I still recognize the importance of occupying kids’ time in the long hot summer months. It’s in summer camp that kids get exposed to new adventurous things and meet new people. Some of my great friends were made at one summer camp or another over the years. (No doubt we were kindred souls converging under a shade tree lamenting the whole experience.)

I am sure that Columbus is typical of many cities that are quickly running through its rainy day funds in the wake of the recession. For Columbus, this summer camp situation comes on the heels of the city closing eleven recreation centers, traditionally summer havens for young people. To add to this brew, the city is in battle with the police force over reducing the number of overtime hours for the city’s police force. What a mix we are brewing. Added to the heat of summer we will have young people with no summer camps, no recreation centers and fewer policing hours.
It seems that for the city of Columbus and others like it, the financial crisis is hitting young people quite hard. I can only imagine what the summer will bring for young people with no place to go and no new challenging supervised adventures to constructively occupy their time.


  1. Here's an article on a similiar topic, closing pools in Philadelphia.
    The author wonders if the closings of pools in some neighborhoods will result in increased gang violence over turf.

  2. Hello there! I am glad to stop by your site and know more about summer camps. Keep it up! This is a good read. I will be looking forward to visit your page again and for your other posts as well. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about summer camps in your area.
    Some camps, such as CTY and Duke TIP, are focused primarily on education or on educational-related activities, such as debate, history, or journalism. These camps are often run by colleges or universities, and are usually for children in junior or senior high school. Educational summer camps are different than summer schools as the summer camps often are not offered for school credit, and often have a significant focus on non-academic activities. Students for these programs are often invited or recruited. Many of these camps, such as Canada/USA Mathcamp and SSP, focus on a specific subject, such as mathematics or astronomy. These camps tend to have selective application processes involving problem solving or an essay about the applicant's interest in the subject.
    We specially designed a week-long experience to introduce kids to the basics of light, color, lenses, and mirrors through fun, hands-on activities.

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