Summer Journeys '16: Summer Camps with an Edge


Did you know? According to the American Camp Association:

  • Youth and family camps in the U.S. are a $15 billion dollar industry.
  • There are more than 12,000 day and resident camps (7,000 are resident /overnight and 5,000 are day camps).
  • Each year, more than 11 million children and adults attend camp in the U.S.
  • Female campers (60 percent) outnumber male campers (40 precent).
  • The top five camp activities are recreationals swimming, arts/crafts, challenge/ropes, archery, and aquatic activities.
  • Fees to attend camp vary: resident/overnight camps average $690 week (and can cost up to $2,000+ a week); day camp average $304 week (can cost up to $500+).
  • 90% of ACA-accredited camps offer some form of financial assistance to over one million children who are from economically deprived families, have special medical needs, or special situations that might preclude them from attending camp.

The American Camp Association says there's a camp to fit every youth and every budget.

Below we offer a short (and far from comprehensive) list of summer camps for teens who are looking for an experience with an "edge"—from developing political leadership skills and tackling social justice issues to exploring our National Parks in an RV.




American University
Running Start encourages high school girls from across the country to channel their leadership into politics. Free of charge and travel scholarships are available.

American University School of Communication
Hands-on experience in communication for high school students. Programs in journalism, film, photography, and communication. One- to four-week programs.

American Wanderer Summer Camp
Explore some of the most magnificent places in the world - right here in America. Offers four two-week exploring our National Parks. What makes the camp unique is that the cabins are on wheels (RV's) and no two days at camp are the same.

Bard College Institute for Writing and Thinking
Three-week writing and thinking workshops offered at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, Lewis and Clark College, Lake Forest College.

Brandeis BIMA Summer Arts Program
Arts program with a Jewish focus for students finishing grades 9-11.

Career Explorations
Summer internships in various careers (including architecture, fashion, medicine). Four- and six-week programs.

CDC Disease Detective Camp (DDC)
Free. Campers take on the roles of disease detectives and learn how CDC safeguards the national health. The program targets minority youth.

Civic Leadership Institute (Northwestern University & Johns Hopkins University)
Three-week summer service-learning programs for outstanding high school students completing grades 9 through 12 in Chicago, Baltimore & San Francisco. CLI combines hands-on education, meaningful service, powerful speakers and seminars and an unforgettable residential experience for a summer that students often describe as life-changing.

Discovery Internships /
Started almost 50 years ago, Discovery Internships currently offer more than 1,000 opportunities for high school studens in more than 25 career fields in 4 cities: Los Angeles, New York City, Boston, and London.

Embarc Design Academy
embARC is an intensive, four-week summer design academy for high school students held at the College of Environmental Design (CED), University of California-Berkeley. embARC brings together students from diverse backgrounds to CED to study architecture, urban design, and sustainable city planning through a series of lectures, field trips and a design:build studio.

Fifteen Green Summer Camps
These 15 "green" summer camps, spread across the country, boast solar power, green architecture, sustainable farms and organic gardens.

Junior Statesmen Summer School
Three- and four-week summer courses at Georgetown, Stanford, Princeton, or Yale for rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors who have a passionate interest in politics, government and current events.

10 Best Summer Camps for LGBT Youth
The Brave Trails Mission is to provide lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning youth and their allies, ages 12-20, innovative, impactful summer camp programs that foster meaningful relationships and develop 21st century skills to become the leaders of tomorrow.

National Crews
From Kenai Fjords National Park to the Blue Ridge Parkway, from Rocky Mountain National Park to the Cumberland Island National Seashore, public lands across the United States are in need of a little TLC. SCA’s National Crews offer you a chance to visit places you’ve never seen before, camping with your crew members in the field to enjoy nature at its best. You’ll be building trails, conserving vital habitats, and protecting natural resources for future generations. National Crews will also set you on the path to other SCA opportunities, like Trail Corps and Conservation Internships.

New York Film Academy: Summer Film and Acting Camps
The premiere film and acting camp in the world has locations at Harvard University, Yale University, Universal Studios, Hollywood, Disney Studios--along with Florida, Paris, Florence and London. Each student has the opportunity to play a valuable role in the production of a film, while receiving the hands-on instruction needed to perfect your craft. The courses are taught at the same level for high school and tween students as their college programs, using the same instructors, equipment and assignments.

One World Now
OneWorld Now's primary objective is to cultivate the next generation of global leaders. The program is unique, however, because it is designed to create opportunities for young people that have historically not had access to integrated leadership programs—students of color and economically disadvantaged youth.

The University of Tulsa Summer Residential Camps in Screenwriting and Filmmaking
For high school students, from entering freshmen to graduating seniors.

Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camps
Now in its 8th year, Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp is a life-changing week-long overnight camp with sessions in Massachusetts, New York, and California for youth who want to change the world! Campers from all over the country, ages 12-17, choose a social issue they want to work on, like the environment, gay rights, racism, or animal cruelty. Throughout the week they build their confidence, develop concrete skills, make incredible like-minded friends, and leave with an action plan to make a difference on a cause of their choice when they go home.

Wildness Ventures
Few programs have had more experience than Wilderness Ventures in conducting safe and successful outdoor adventure travel experiences for young people. Since 1973, more than 22,000 young people have participated in over 2,100 trip groups. Because of its extensive and exclusive federal permits, it is able to conduct domestic adventures in much smaller geographical locations with far less time-consuming vehicle travel than any other similar-appearing program.


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“There’s a radical—and wonderful—new idea here… that all children could and should be inventors of their own theories, critics of other people’s ideas, analyzers of evidence, and makers of their own personal marks on the world.”

– Deborah Meier, educator