Photo courtesy Randolph-Macon Academy Flight Camp
For many youths, it’s hard to choose a career path. Do they have a passion for cooking? Perhaps piloting an aircraft is more their speed? A great way to explore potential career choices is through summer programs and camps. Even if they decide not to pursue that interest down the road, they will have gained valuable insight into what they may like to do as an adult. Here’s a sampling of summer programs offering an introduction to a career.
Taking to the Sky
Students who want to take flight — literally — can do so at Randolph-Macon Academy’s Flight Camp, a four-week summer program that blends book and flying lessons seamlessly.
“We get them up there on day one,” says Laura Abraham, the school’s director of flight training. “Our goal is to have them fly pretty much every day.”
Because the camp is limited to eight students, Abraham interviews all applicants to ensure commitment, but no prior experience is required. “We have a lot of students who have gone into careers in flying,” she says. “For others, this is something they’ve always wanted to try.”
One former student, college senior Ryan Klempin, credits Flight Camp with giving him a head-start on his goal of becoming a flight instructor. Thanks to the instruction Klempin received during the two years he attended flight camp (2010 and 2011), he became a flight instructor at the end of his sophomore year, which usually doesn’t happen until junior or senior year, he says.
“There were so many good things about this program, it’s hard to limit to just one,” he says, noting the wide range of flying skills and situations that students were exposed to as well as the enthusiasm of the instructors. “These instructors will make you fall in love with flying and fall in love with aviation,” he says. “The camp gave me a great perspective on what flying is and what it entails.”
Abraham says that while the goal isn’t necessarily to encourage students into aviation careers, that’s a useful outcome, noting a national shortage of pilots and flight instructors. “It ebbs and flows,” she says, adding that she’d love to see more girls in the camp, as only 6 percent of the nation’s pilots are women.
The small camp size also benefits students, Abraham notes: “Since they’re all interested in the same thing, they form a bond. The students who are here want to be here.”
For more information, visit rma.edu/summer-programs-flight-camp. In 2017, dates are July 2-28.
Photo courtesy Chef Camp
For teens who delight in cooking show competitions and read Food & Wine magazine for fun, Chef Camp is the place to hone their skills and bond with like-minded souls, says camp director Diane Tyrrell.
First held in Halifax County’s Clover community in 2015, Chef Camp this year is relocating to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where participants will spend two weeks living in a beach house and working on kitchen teams, rotating head chef duties. When they’re not in the kitchen, students will visit local farmers markets and restaurants, and talk with chefs and others in the food industry about real life as a culinary professional and topics including food sourcing.
Tyrrell notes there are so many options for food professionals — private chefs, catering, pastry, etc. — that it’s beneficial for teens to have a focused experience. “There’s a need for something between ‘I want to make cupcakes’ and ‘I want to make a career of cooking.’ ”
Additionally, skills found at Chef Camp are eminently transferable, she says, noting that chefs have to plan, budget, think creatively, communicate effectively and work well in team settings.
The camp welcomes the novice chef as well. “We don’t want to limit it to kids who have had a lot of prior cooking classes or instruction,” she says. “It’s really about passion: kids who want to be there and this is their thing.”
Because the camp is all about food and cooking, no students with life-threatening allergies should apply, Tyrrell says, noting that sanitation is part of instruction, but camp staff can’t guarantee there won’t be cross-contamination. Teens with selective palates should also think twice, because all participants will be encouraged to at least take a bite of everything.
The bottom line, Tyrrell says, is to reach out to kids for whom food is their passion and help them begin thinking about their future. “Our biggest message is don’t drop out of high school!”
For more information, visit chefcamp.com. Five two-week sessions run June to August (enrollment opens April 1).
Photo courtesy VCUarts
For the Love of Art
High school students with a passion for an arts career know that a degree from Virginia Commonwealth University’s top-ranked School of the Arts is a great place to begin. They should also know that VCUarts’ Pre-College Summer Intensive residency program offers a valuable launching pad even before high school ends.
Open to rising 10th-graders through immediate high-school graduates, the three-week residency brings 110 to 125 students to VCU’s campus every July to experience living in community with others of similar interest, whether in the performing arts, fine arts or design arts.
“Creative fields are daunting,” says Ursula Woolman, the program’s creative director. “I admire these students who want it so badly; you see their enthusiasm and dedication.”
The togetherness of classes, plus evening and weekend activities, give students a real-world experience, Woolman says. “We really try to represent the School of the Arts,” Woolman says. “This is a good lead-in to what being in an art school requires.”
During the day, students work with “incredibly dedicated” faculty, Woolman says, noting that most are VCUarts teachers and return year after year. “We just don’t have turnover,” she says.
Sarah Faris, an assistant professor in the department of communication arts who specializes in medical illustration, says that by the end of the session, “their work starts to rival the work we see from first- and second-year college students.”
Faris and Woolman note that many students, especially rising high school seniors, develop portfolios that can be used for applying to college and art school programs. “At the end, they have pieces of work they feel they’ve built up and are excited about,” Woolman says.
Faris adds, “We treat this as an intentional educational program. Students appreciate the opportunity and rigor and get an understanding of honest feedback and criticism. We don’t handle them with kid gloves.”
For more information, visit arts.vcu.edu/summerintensive. Dates for 2017 are July 9-28 (applications due March 31).
Photo courtesy Richmond SPCA
Dog Days of Summer
Dogs and the people who love — and work with — them are center stage in three separate “Critter Camps” offered by the Richmond SPCA.
“Dogs with Jobs,” for rising third- to eighth-graders, features guest speakers who talk about the myriad areas in which dogs perform valuable services: narcotics and bomb detection, therapy, service to those with physical handicaps and commercial (“trick” or agility).
“Kids get to meet a wide variety of dogs that also have jobs,” says Sarah Babcock, chief of education and training. “You get to see a little bit of all the things dogs can do to help us.”
Rising fifth- through eighth-graders can also choose the “Junior Vet and Junior Dog Trainer” camp, which focus on the elements found in each profession. Babcock says students have hands-on experience with dogs, many of which were in the Richmond SPCA shelter, to learn the basics of reward-based training and basic pet first aid.
Students who want something to do with their own four-legged friends can choose “Kids and K9s.” For rising sixth- through eighth-graders, the program helps students learn how to lead and teach their own dogs. “This is good for the kids and good for their dogs,” Babcock says. “It’s really fun to watch the progress over the week and see how the relationship [between dog and student] blossoms.”
In some cases, students from this camp continue training with their dogs in other Richmond SPCA agility classes. Student Emma Danforth first participated when she was 10 with her dog Pepper. She enjoyed the experience so much that she took additional classes and even entered an agility competition with Pepper.
Now, recognizing that Pepper isn’t well-suited to competitions — too many distractions — Emma’s family has added Oliver, a Bichon Frise from the Richmond SPCA shelter, for Emma to continue learning and training with. “It’s fun for him to chase me around,” Emma says.
For Emma, the classes are more than fun. “I want to be a dog trainer,” she says. “I really love spending time with dogs, probably more than people.”
The Richmond SPCA’s Babcock points to one other benefit of all the camps: “You’re instilling in kids that they’re the kind of kids who help animals.”
For more information, visit richmondspca.org/camp.
Photo courtesy VSU GROWS
Teaching the Teachers
“If we are going to prepare the best and brightest, we’re going to have to put some work in it.”
So declares Shandra Claiborne-Payton, assistant professor at Virginia State University and coordinator of program admissions for VSU’s weeklong intensive experience designed to create great teachers. “We don’t care what subject they want to teach, but we want to make sure they have a passion for education,” she says.
Claiborne-Payton created Gaining Real World Opportunities With Students (GROWS) in 2010 when she and others at VSU saw an opportunity to create a camp that could serve the dual purpose of helping prospective teachers while providing an insider’s look at VSU’s College of Education. “It’s up to us to tell our story,” she says.
Funded initially through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, GROWS is free to the 15 student participants, who each submit a transcript, recommendation and essays, and sit for a formal interview. “I make sure the group is very diverse,” Claiborne-Payton says, noting that the camp pulls students from throughout the state.
During the week, students create lesson plans and then present the lessons to younger students from the local Boys & Girls Club. They learn how to reach students with special needs and then develop strategies to use in classrooms. They also discuss education policy, concluding with a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with governmental and elected officials. “We go to D.C. and see people who we have talked about,” Claiborne-Payton says.
Another lesson is embedded throughout the week, she says: how students present themselves. “We teach the students it’s important for them to have positive dispositions,” she says, referring to the manner in which young teachers act, carry themselves, and even dress. “Education is very conservative,” she notes, adding that students are actually taken to a department store and coached as they experiment with how to select what would be a professional outfit.
The bottom line is simple, Claiborne-Payton says. “As teachers, you have to teach outside the box; everything needs to be for your students.”
For more information, visit vsu.edu/go/camps. Dates for 2017 are July 16-23 (applications due April 14).
Additional Career-Related Summer Programs
ArtHaus Summer Camps Instruction in clay, paint, mixed media, photography, textiles and more at 1811 Huguenot Road, Suite 303, in Midlothian. 897-4278 or arthausrichmond.com.
ArtVenture Painting instruction from Richmond-based professional artists at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond, 1812 W. Main St. 353-0094 or visarts.org.
August Adventure Camp A collaboration between SPARC and Cadence Theatre Co., programs in performing arts held at multiple area locations. 353-3393 or sparconline.org.
Camp Motorsport Instruction related to racing, engineering and careers in motorsports at 8144 Mount Laurel Road in Clover. 888-836-1212 or campmotorsport.org.
CodeVA Eureka Workshop Programs in computer science at 300 E. Broad St. 727-9817 or codevirginia.org.
Green Adventures Summer Camps Lessons related to plants and horticulture at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. 262-9887, ext. 322, or lewisginter.org.
iD Tech Summer Computer Camps Courses in computer programming, game design, robotics and more at the College of William & Mary, University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia. 408-871-3700 or idtech.com.
MSiC Camp Innovation Programs in biology, computer technology and engineering at the MathScience Innovation Center (2401 Hartman St.) and John Tyler Community College’s Chester and Midlothian campuses. 343-6525 or mymsic.org.
RMEP Summer Engineering Institute Application-based science and engineering programs at Virginia State University and Virginia Commonwealth University. 420-2674 or rvamep.org.
Science Museum of Virginia A variety of STEM-related summer programs at 2500 W. Broad St. 864-1400 or smv.org.
SPARC (School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community) Programs in the performing arts at 2106-A N. Hamilton St. 353-3393 or sparconline.org.
Virginia Historical Society Programs in gardening and horticulture at the VHS’ Virginia House, 4301 Sulgrave Road. 353-4251 or vahistorical.org.
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Studio projects and art classes in a variety of mediums at 200 N. Boulevard. 340-1400 or vmfa.museum/programs.
Virginia Repertory Theatre Acting and performance camps with instruction from professionals in Virginia held at various locations. 783-1688, ext. 1140, or virginiarep.org.