Ideas for a Sensational Summer

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JIM PATERSON has been a writer and editor for 25 years. He also is the head of the counseling department at Argyle Middle School in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Taylor came home buzzing about her three-week stay at Cow House Studios, a center for artists on a beautiful farm in Wexford, Ireland. Her parents were pleased that in high school she had an opportunity to explore art through the unique summer program, tour various spots in Ireland, and meet like-minded young people on the working farm.

But a few weeks later, her parents saw a bigger payoff.

When Taylor and her family were making one of their regular visits to a small seaside town in New England, Taylor began photographing and interviewing the residents, mimicking the work of an advanced student with whom she had worked.

“These are people she had no doubt encountered countless times over the years, but now she decided to engage them in a way she never had before,” says Frank Abruzzese, Cow House co-director. “When I heard this I thought: ’that’s it.’ That’s what I had hoped we could give to our students. If we can foster a deep curiosity for the world, I think we've done our students a great service. Taylor can apply it to anything.”

Taylor’s experience is being matched throughout this country and abroad in summer programs that offer a diverse mix of experiences.

“I think there is a shift from the days that students went to the Adiron-dacks or just spent time at a college,” says Sara Crowther Craig, director of non-degree programs at Smith College. “Now there is so much more.”

For instance, Smith has broadened its summer offerings for high school students to include a well-regarded four-week Summer Science and Engineering Program and an in-depth sustainability program. It also offers “Hidden Lives,” which taps into the school’s world famous archive of women’s historical documents, including recordings from Sylvia Plath and Gloria Steinem and the journals of Clara Barton.

“I identified with these early 'pioneer' women,” says 16-year- old participant Madeline. “Just like us, they joined clubs, went to dances, and had dreams of becoming doctors and teachers. It's fun to see how far we have advanced, and to see that I have some of the same dreams and desires.”

There are more options for teens for specialized types of trips,” says Kathryn Trotzuk, founder and director for STRIVE, which offers community service trips abroad for student ath-letes. “Although teens can enjoy a camp or travel experience, now they can combine a passion with a camp, travel, or service program.”

STRIVE provides trips primarily to Kenya or Peru, where athletes work out together each morning and afternoon, and spend from 35-50 hours per week building and supporting orphanages and schools.

“My daughter was struck by how this program was unique because it was for student athletes,” says Marina Jacobson, a parent. “She knew she was going to try out for varsity soccer upon her return and was happy that she could improve her fitness over the summer while traveling abroad, having fun, and helping others.”

Will Isenberg had a similar experience in Kenya, where the cross country star for St. Anthony’s High School in Huntington, NY, put the $4,000 he raised for the trip to work building a classroom and buying books for an elementary school, while training with some of the best runners in the country, well-known for its own cross country stars.

Ingenium Academy, based in London, offers students a chance to study music and participate in a student orchestra while they travel in a different country. “It is becoming more important for summer programs to stand out from the crowd and offer unique opportunities to their students who will then in due course stand out from the crowd,” says Rebecca Hawley, director. “Inge-nium offers an “exciting combination of living, rehears-ing, and performing together—the ultimate exercise in teambuilding, music making, and building life-long friendships.“

Other programs offer similar opportunities:

• At the Savannah College of Art and Design, students can take new workshops this year in art, quilting, and knitting, adding to the 29 workshops the school now has in topics ranging from Photo-shop for Gamers to Acting for the Camera.

• The ArtsBridge summer program offers aspiring singers, dancers, and actors specialized guidance about the admissions process for prestigious performing arts schools, while helping them perfect their performances. Famous performing artists are among the instructors.

• The Appel Farms Art Camp in southern New Jersey offers students interested in performing arts an opportunity to explore classical, rock, and jazz instrumental programs and traditional vocal instruction, along with a new singer- songwriting track and recording arts program. The school promotes the use of new social media tools and new technology.

Summer abroad programs throughout the world are offered by Aspire, which involves students in language and cultural immersion, including a program in which students can learn the art of travel writing and blogging, according to Courtney Link, director.

“One of our students had a positive, life-changing experience that we wish would occur with all of them. The following fall, she signed up for the International Club, enrolled in an extra year of Spanish class, and decided that she wants to study international relations in college. That is the sort of thing a program like this can do.”