Generation Z Goes To Sleepaway Summer Camp – Lifelong Friendships and 21st Century Skills

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Today’s young adults born after 1995, known as Generation Z (also known as the Centennial generation), are the most educated in American history and – like my generation of baby boomers – one of the largest.

Yet, Gen Z kids have grown up in an age of instant gratification: smartphones ​that are not making us very smart I may say, ​ and social media that is not enabling us to be very social but I digress. We live in a highly tech world. One that provides immediate access to data at their fingertips, and frankly, too much information and stimulation. The children that are on social media have hundreds if not thousands of Facebook​, Twitter​,​ ​Instagram, SnapChat “friends,” but often few real connections.

Children who go to sleep-away camp make real connections. Summer camp gives kids the tools they don’t get during the school year. Sleepaway camp may be the last place a child can have quality face-time. According to Wendy Mogel, Ph D, who wrote the best-selling The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, “Parents today find it harder than ever to uphold their own values within their families when they seem so at odds with those of our current culture. We seek security in a society that seems more and more dangerous, grace that thrives on competition, and gratitude in an age of ever-increasing materialism. How can this generation of parents raise self-reliant, compassionate, and ethical children?” The answer is summer camp, where kids get to go outside and play.

Preparing children for adulthood

Sleepaway camp also provides children 21st Century Skills. Our world requires successful people to be peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers of all kind. ​Camp Wekeela offers all of these powerful lessons by teaching the very skills needed to flourish in the future. We must prepare children for the future and not do everything for them. We haven’t let them fall, fail and fear. If they don’t take risks early on, like climbing in the playground and possibly falling off, they may be fearful of every new endeavor at age 25.

There is more to preparing children for adulthood than academic education. I believe if children spent their summers in camp, they would be better prepared for later decisions like whether to go to college, and how to make the best life for who they are. Teens in particular need mentors they trust, separate from their parents. These role models provide guidance and help them prepare for their adult lives by helping them lay a solid foundation. The parents that sent their children to Camp Wekeela have always appreciated camp’s educational potential.

Sleepaway summer camp is an incredible and profound experience. It’s magical! I’ve seen it through camper and parent notes as well as college application essays. What makes summer camp special is the camp community. The long-lasting friendships made at camp are everlasting and priceless. Camp provides children with the opportunity to connect with nature, to participate in human-powered activities, and to benefit from personal and primary relationships.

At camp, children learn to stretch their boundaries and experience life through the eyes of someone whose life is not a mirror image of their own. By doing so, camp increases their self-esteem and confidence and fosters their independence. According to Michael Thompson, Ph D, “The only way children can grow into independent adults is to have parents open the door and let them walk out.” That’s what makes camp such a life-changing experience.

Charles Eliot, a former president of Harvard University, said, “I have a conviction that a few weeks spent in a well-organized summer camp may be of more value educationally than a whole year of formal school work.” Eliot’s statement still holds true, especially for the millennial generation. Some of the coolest kids at camp might be labeled as nerds, geeks or worse at home. At​Camp Wekeela, children are accepted for who they are. When children are taken out of their usual environment, the rules are altered. Authenticity is rewarded. Responsibility is cool. Maturity adds clout. Camp prepares kids for college and graduate school.

Investing in independence

Recently, at a camp fair a mother said to me, ‘I don’t want to get rid of my kids for the summer.’ I replied that camp is the greatest gift she could ever give her children. Summer camps are more than just a place for children to be during school vacation. They’re a safe place for children to learn social rules, acceptable behavior, independence, confidence, and leadership. Camp teaches a child how to grow up. Camp teaches a child about responsibility and the importance of meaningful relationships. Sleep-away camp, in particular, is an intense experience because it is 24/7. Unlike friends on Facebook, camp friends are lifelong friendships. At camp, kids can truly be themselves. And that is arguably the best part of sleepaway camp.

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