Looking for alternatives to the camps that Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa have to offer? We found a few, covering a broad range of interests, costs and target audiences. This summer, kids can spend their days learning about music, entrepreneurship, lions and tigers, and robots. For more camp profiles, see Pages 4-5.
Girls Empowered Mentally for Success Inc.
What: Fashion and entrepreneurship skills for girls 10 to 17
When: From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 18-25 and June 25-July 9
Where: 7402 N 56th St., Corporate Square Building, Suite 790
Cost: $65 per week
Contact: (813) 300-2891 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
TEMPLE TERRACE — Crystal Bailes always wanted to teach. But to make ends meet for her family, she took a job in New York City working as a corrections officer on Rikers Island.
For 17 years, she worked with men and boys, some serving life sentences. A number of them, she said, had made a single bad choice. She watched them in court needing a clean shirt and a comb and an adult to back them.
Bailes, now 53, wanted to fill the void. In 1997, she moved to Tampa aiming to find an outlet where she could support youth and be a positive role model.
By 2003, she had created her own outlet by starting GEMS, working in middle schools as a mentor to girls. Now she runs the program in her own facility after school. It includes mentoring, leadership skills, poetry and writing workshops.
During the summer, she offers a camp. The first session will feature Heather Pittmon, a graduate of the International Academy of Design and Technology who now lives in Indiana and has her own design line. Girls will learn fashion design, styling and basic sewing techniques. The second session will focus on entrepreneurship skills and may feature baking.
Elisabeth Parker, Times staff writer
HorsePower for Kids
NORTH TAMPA — Kids have told Armando Gort about how "the barn" changed their lives. One girl said she had been the oddball in high school with no friends until her grandmother sent her to horse camp. Another said she went from highly insecure to someone comfortable enough not to have to wear makeup in public.
Working at HorsePower for Kids, a nonprofit that operates year-round giving kids and families their first introductions to horses, made another girl's homework and chores a breeze.
Gort, the camp's founder and director, knows why: Horses see people all the same.
"What I see at my camp from kids who come to the farm is that their self esteem improves at school," Gort said. "At the camp we all have a passion for the same thing."
The camp enrolls about 15 kids a week during the summer, teaching them to ride some of the stable's 30 horses. They learn to ride trails, groom horses and show the ponies. On the camp's final day, the kids dress up the horses with washable paint, ribbons, hats and other costume materials for a parade and contest. The camp also includes swimming and canoeing during down times.
Each year, the nonprofit camp hands out 10 scholarships to underprivileged kids. Gort wants inner-city children to be able to get out in the country and see what it's like to work with animals who can't see anyone's backgrounds or circumstances — but love people just the same.
Justin George, Times staff writer
Summer Stars Theater Camps
HYDE PARK — Maureen Patrick has taught children to act for 29 years in the historic 1925 Friday Morning Musicale in Old Hyde Park.
Patrick, 61, has been performing professionally since she was 23. The kids, she says, call her a "yold," a mix of young and old, and she doesn't mind. She is a third-generation Floridian who grew up in Seminole Heights. She started teaching the camps after coming back to Tampa from a variety show touring military bases in Europe and Africa. She had danced in the show, and also danced at Disney World 16 years.
Patrick, who has a master's degree in humanities from the University of South Florida, also leads ghost tours in Ybor City and an annual Halloween tour of Oaklawn Cemetery, a historic graveyard downtown. She dresses as characters that may have lived during particular times. She has more than 350 costumes.
At her five-day camps, children design costumes and props using paper, crayons, sequins and jewels. They spend much of their week learning and rehearsing a play, which they perform on Friday as a free show for parents and the public. This year's performances include Madeline, The Wizard of Oz, Lady and the Tramp, The Hobbit and Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
Elisabeth Parker, Times staff writer
Kids who love playing with puppies and kittens may have an ideal outlet in Critter Camp, a series of five-day summer camps held at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay.
"We just do all kinds of cool things with animals,'' said Sherry Silk, executive director.
The humane society started Critter Camp a few years ago after supporters and donors asked for it, Silk said, noting it's a great way to reach out to the community, "and it also makes some money for us.''
Kids spend part of the time in an air-conditioned modular classroom, where they learn how to properly care for animals — grooming, giving baths, making sure they're fed properly and that they have fresh water. The kids see films, make crafts and hear from guest lecturers, such as veterinarians, animal trainers and police K-9 officers.
For safety, the staff lets kids play only with young animals, puppies and adolescent dogs and kittens, said Silk.
"The kids really seem to enjoy it.''
Philip Morgan, Times staff writer
Skate Park of Tampa
TAMPA — Growing up, Jorge Angel's parents sent him to intramural flag football and basketball camps at the University of South Florida. All Angel wanted to do was skateboard but, back then, there weren't any skateboarding camps in the region — nor was skateboarding as accepted a sport as it is now.
"I wish I had it when I was a kid," Angel, 27, said.
Luckily for kids these days, the Skate Park of Tampa puts on summer camps where kids and teens can learn tricks, skate an assortment of ramps, build skateboards, meet pro skaters, watch skateboard videos and discover how a skate shop and skate park isn't just a hangout but a business.
"Seeing how all of us put in all this hard work instills in them work ethic," said Angel, the park's assistant general manager.
The kids learn that their hobby can someday become a career with hard work and a college education, and the camp takes them behind the scenes into Skate Park of Tampa's merchandise warehouse and event meetings.
Angel, who has a political science degree, said the camp aims to make sure the kids have fun while also showing them that skateboarding is as legitimate a sport, business and career as anything else.
Justin George, Times staff writer
University of Tampa Music Camps
Middle and high school students looking to perfect their skills this summer can tap into the University of Tampa music department's weeklong camps.
"It's a chance to work with really renown faculty," said assistant professor Grigorios Zamparas, who trained at the Athens Conservatory in Greece, Indiana University and the University of Miami. "They will play in small ensembles at the end of the week, after coaching and rehearsals and attending faculty recitals."
The camps offer day-time sessions, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 or 5 p.m., with lunch provided, as well as residential options with dormitory housing and all meals provided. Evening concerts and recreational activities are planned for overnighters. An audition tape or live audition may be required for some camps.
Chamber Music: From June 10 to 15 for students of string instruments and piano entering grades 7 to 12. The intensive program, directed by the Trio de Minaret, includes music history, voice instruction, choir rehearsals, and instrument repair and adjustment, concluding with student and faculty performances.
Band Camp: From June 17 to 22 for woodwind, brass and percussion students in grades 7 to 12. Faculty master classes are given daily, plus such electives as jazz improvisation, score reading and conducting.
Choral/Vocal Camp: From June 24 to 29 to help students in grades 9 to 12 improve solo and ensemble performance skills.
Piano Camp: From June 24 to 30 for ages 12 to 18. Zamparas and assistant professor Ryan Hebert, along with guest pianists Duncan MacMillan and Leonidas Lipovetsky, will teach piano literature, music theory and master classes.
There will be ample time for practice and coaching, said Zamparas, before the students' weekly recitals where they will demonstrate what they learned.
Prices vary; discounts for participants who register by May 1.
Amy Scherzer, Times staff writer
LEGO Mindstorms Robotics Camps
BRANDON — In 2011, Florida Advanced Technology Education Center offered its first girls-only robotics summer camp.
It was canceled due to lack of interest.
This summer, FLATE will try again. Middle school girls interested in science and technology are invited to experience camp sans boys June 18 to 22 at the Hillsborough Community College Brandon Campus. The program is one of four LEGO Mindstorms Robotics Camps now open for enrollment.
Camp coordinator Desh Bagley said female students will create one-of-a-kind robots in a "girls rule" type setting.
"We've seen that the dynamic between girls and boys can change the quality of the camp experience for girls," Bagley said. "Its not true for every girl but some girls step up more on their own. They take a little more initiative."
Bagley said campers will learn about engineering careers and how technology is used in everyday society. On the first day, instructors will divide 20 campers into teams of two. The pairs will then build, program and test the limits of sensor-controlled robots. Each day they will face a new challenge.
"They will have to get their robots from a starting point to an ending point," Bagley said. "The robots will have to follow a maze and at the end of each week their will be a presentation for parents to see what their children have learned."
Sarah Whitman, Times staff writer
Big Cat Rescue Summer Camp
CARROLLWOOD — Willow Hecht makes one thing immediately clear: "This is not a zoo camp."
The education and camp director for Big Cat Rescue says that campers here actually learn "what it takes to care for lions, tigers, leopards . . . 100 cats of every size."
Participants will observe keepers cleaning, feeding and training the animals, following themes such as ecology, adaptations, genetics and conservation.
But the idea is not to get kids too friendly with the animals.
These are educational activities, Hecht emphasizes, "not animal interactions. We instill a healthy fear of big cats."
During daily hikes through the 55-acre rescue sanctuary in northwest Tampa, the children observe the cats and discuss what they learned. "For example," said Hecht, "they'll talk about camouflage and then see the different types of coloration of their fur."
One of the week's highlights is making enrichment treats for the animals.
"They get to make several different types of food puzzles and toys, then watch the cats' reaction as they are handed out,'' Hecht said. A food puzzle, she explained, might be a box filled with meat that the animal must figure out how to open.
"They love to take very large pieces of cardboard, paint them and fill them with meat and catnip,'' she said. The kids decide which cat to give it to, "and watch them rip it to shreds."
Amy Scherzer, Times staff writer