Many camp directors have described the 2022 season as the most challenging COVID-19 summer of all — and because of your devoted leadership and persistence, millions of children, teens, and young adults still enjoyed invaluable camp experiences. Every day campers learned new skills, practiced teamwork, learned to get along with others, and managed their emotions. They took positive risks, persevered, and had fun just being themselves. It is truly an honor to be associated with a field filled with extraordinary and heroic camp professionals who have devoted their careers to a mission much bigger than themselves and, in doing so, made this world a better place for so many.
At the beginning of the summer, New York Times editorial board member Mara Gay wrote the Op-Ed “The US Should Help Children Go to Summer Camp,” which evocatively articulated a call to action for equitable access to summer camp experiences for all school-age children and youth. In it she outlined why camp is essential today from an educational, developmental, and curative perspective. In Gay’s words (2022):
At its best, camp can offer children a chance to learn outside the classroom, drawing them from their computer screens and helping them build stronger relationships with other children, themselves, and nature. For children living in poverty especially, summer camp can be a great equalizer, giving them a chance to pick up essential life skills — like swimming — often not taught in their communities. At many camps, children from diverse backgrounds forge lifelong friendships, develop a deep connection with and respect for nature and learn to work as teams to overcome big challenges.
I hope you’ll take some time to read this important Op-Ed and share it with others. Expanding the reach, relevance, and equitable access to camp experiences for all interested school-age children and families is core to ACA’s strategic work — and a must given the lingering educational challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. A July 2022 report from NWEA, a nonprofit organization that provides academic assessments to schools, estimated that elementary school students may need at least three years to catch up to where they would have been had the pandemic not happened. Middle school students may need five years or more (Mervosh, 2022).
For this and many other reasons, ACA is excited to be partnering with a number of ACA-accredited camps and the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) to demonstrate the efficacy of camp-school partnership summer camp programs that socially, emotionally, and academically support high-need youth from low-income family backgrounds who have been most affected by the pandemic. This program has been made possible through a generous grant from the New York Life Foundation and funding from the US Department of Education’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. This year’s cohort of ten camps implemented a one-week, pre-academic year camp experience for rising middle school students representing economically disadvantaged, high-need schools and communities. Each camp partnered with a local school/school district/charter school network, and ACA and NSLA provided technical assistance, training, evaluation, and a community of practice to support program quality and state and national viability across all 10 sites. We are very grateful to Boys and Girls Clubs’ Camp Mendocino and Camp Whitcomb-Mason, Camp Echo Lake, Camp Twin Lakes, Change Summer, Frost Valley YMCA, Guided Discoveries, Hale Education, Mo Ranch, and Trail Blazers for their generous participation in this project. From my perspective, we cannot scale this work fast enough — and we must all look for ways to ensure that every child who wants to is able to go to camp.
Your camp programs profoundly benefit your campers and staff educationally and developmentally — helping them thrive and live inspired lives. Thank you for leading the way in these extraordinarily challenging times.
- Gay, M. (2022, May 31). The US should help children go to summer camp. New York Times. ACAcamps.org/sites/default/files/page_documents/media/nyt-opinion-us-should-help-children-go-to-summer-camp.pdf
- Mervosh, S. (2022, July 19). Students are learning well again. But full recovery? That’s a long way off. New York Times. nytimes.com/2022/07/19/us/pandemic-learning-loss-recovery-time.html?smid=em-share