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Why Sleep-away Camp – why Summit?

For our campers, there are numerous outcomes from being in a guided and designed atmosphere. Like a 24/7 social skills group, Summit Camp outcomes have included growth in social skills, improved self confidence, greater problem solving abilities, and the skills to better manage their own issues – from frustration management to clarity of communication. Our campers grow individually and as members of a community while living in a place where they can enjoy age-related independence. Often our campers are able to bring home their new techniques and apply them. Sleep-away camp often means smaller ratios of staff to camper and more dedicated time is given to each child. Our staff truly get to know their campers which provides greater insight in their work and efforts. Camp is also a time where the family unit – parents and siblings – have respite. It can be a very good opportunity for the family to recharge and refocus as well.

1.  My child has never been away from family for any length of time, will this be an issue?

Tangible improvements in your child happen over time – the longer the better. We have sessions of 15 and 22 days which offer optimum opportunity for adjustment and growth. Our campers take longer in the adjustments and transitions – as you may realize. The range of activity and involvements that are found at camp are the right mix to foster this transition. Many parents are surprised to learn that typically our younger campers often transition more easily. Our older campers who buy into such an experience also find success. In your new camper interview we will review your child individually and offer our suggestion for period of enrollment.


2.  Where is Summit Camp located?

Summit Camp is located just north of Honesdale, Pennsylvania. It is a beautiful and remote area noted for rolling hills tucked between the northern Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania and the Catskill Mountains of New York. Camp is 3 hours by car from the George Washington Bridge, 2.45 hours from Philadelphia, 4.5 hours from Washington, DC, 4 hours from Baltimore, and 5 hours from Boston. Campers travel to us from all over North America and other parts of the world.


3.  What can you do to help prepare my child for camp this summer?

Ideas for camp preparation are shared in our parent handbook. We always suggest that all references about camp are positive and supportive. Certainly if a parent or sibling has attended, stories from these experiences are always helpful. As camp draws close, the camper should be included in a number of the processes – from shopping for supplies and naming his/her possessions, to even practice writing some letters home. Greater personal independence skills should also be encouraged – from showering to bed making to perhaps a few more chores around the house. Camp has an open house which can be a wonderful time to meet key staff members and truly get a feel for the place. Watching our camp video can also be helpful to see what might be part of a day – and of course, to see how much fun there is at camp each day. If any issues arise please call the camp office – a reassuring phone call or even a Skype session can go a long way to secure the path to a great camp experience.


4.  How will my camper get to camp?

About half of our campers arrive at camp on camp sponsored transport (provided at no additional charge), buses with camp staff from centralized collection points.  We offer chaperoned collection at LaGuardia airport (JFK for campers west of the Mississippi, also at no additional charge if on a scheduled travel day).  The other half of our campers arrive via family transportation. Specific details are shared in advance of camp. We all try to make the experience as exciting and painless as possible. We even have a few campers from the UK who fly with a chaperone and once they arrive in the USA are driven directly to camp.


5.  How am I able to communicate with my child while at camp?

All campers have computer lab twice each week. They are asked to email a family member at the start of each session. In addition, campers are also asked to write at least two letters each week.  Family members are able to email their campers – these will be hard copied and delivered to them. We are also able to receive and pass along faxes and, of course, regular letters. Phone calls are not part of our usual routine as they often weaken a camper’s sense of independence while away. If, however, a phone call can be positive, they can be arranged. In addition, if your camper has a camp birthday a phone call is often arranged.


6.  What is so special about the female campers' experience?

Many of our girls are often in classrooomn settings where their peer group is mostly male. At Summit we are able to provide our girls a setting that offers true opportunities for same gender interaction, growth, and friendship. Our girls are able to be girls - to enjoy the directed benefits of female interaction, friendships, and bonding. Camp's female staff become significantly positive role models and support their campers' experience that offers support for self esteem and social navigation.


7.  What kind of contact can I expect to have with the staff?

We want to provide you with as much information as possible to let you know that your child is happy and safe. We are available to speak with you if you have any questions or concerns. You can see updated pictures every evening on our website as well as read our nightly newsletter. Also, you are able to email your child’s unit leader at any time (but please remember they are with their campers most times and will not be able to reply immediately) as well as call and leave a phone message for them. You will also receive a weekly status call from your camper’s unit leader. If there is an emergency Senior Director Gene Bell is available virtually at any time. A written review of your camper’s experience is compiled and sent to you shortly after camp has concluded.


8.  Can I visit camp?

Many new to camp families visit us at our pre-camp Open House. Please check our calendar for the date. If your camper is with us for session A1 you are invited to come to camp for a full visiting day program on the last day of that session. There are no formal visiting days for sessions A2 or A3 but you are encouraged to walk about camp if you collect your camper at session's end.


9.   What happens if my child is homesick? 

What is often perceived as homesickness may actually be anxiety about being in a new situation. Our years of camp experience and camper support has provided our staff with the most effective ways of working through homesickness. This includes keeping your child busy and focused, making sure they have at least one adult with whom they feel comfortable, and easing them into a friendship relationship. There are many additional techniques too.  The vast majority of campers work through their homesickness within a few days. We have never had a camper go home due to homesickness.


10.  How does camp address Social Skills issues?

Camp is often compared to a 24/7 social skills group. Every component of camp is built to encourage greater social success. Our basic unit begins in the weekly Tribes sessions that are conducted by a member of our guidance staff (see SIT staff later). These directed activities deal with interaction, pragmatic language, thinking socially, and problem solving. Our cabin staff and specialty counselors carry on this format with cues and redirection and mounds of modeling. Reviews of camper goals and progress are frequently made to correct any focus issues. For many of our campers, it may be the first time they feel a part of a group, have taken leadership roles, or feel that their voice and feelings really matter.


11.  What are the living arrangements for campers?

Campers live in modern wooden frame cabins. We are a camp and feel much of our success comes from the group process that living and playing with cabin mates provides. Guided by three counselors who live in the same space, the group become friends and supportive of one another. What better way to reinforce social skills than to be living in a social situation! Each cabin has ample space for the campers and staff. A bathroom with two sinks, two toilets, and two showers is located at one end. Our cabins all have lovely porches which provide additional space for informal conversations, game playing, reading, or simply chilling out.


12.  How are campers grouped together?

After gathering information from you and your child’s professionals, we develop groupings that best suit the needs and issues of each youngster. We consider age, diagnosis and commonalties between campers to encourage peer relationships within a bunk.  We also strive to keep friends together but also enable new relationships to build (equal numbers of returnees and new to camp campers are the optimum grouping). We look for qualities which we believe will help campers form a connection with their bunkmates.


13.  How are academics addressed?

Since our inception we have strived to be different from what a youngster might perceive as school. We do recognize, however, that there can be some learning loss during the summer. Our Discovery Program is designed to provide language and math activities disguised in a format of fun science and social studies study. These have included wild science and biology experiments and numerous simulation games. Our nature program also provides opportunities for skills as they explore our natural habitat. In all these activities, there is much use of these skills. If your camper requires specific work, tutoring can be arranged at a nominal charge. 


14.  What happens if my camper has an issue?

Unique among special camps, in addition to very skilled group leaders and counselors, Summit has a group of staff who work specifically to enable positive interaction and peer success. Analogous to a group of guidance counselors, our four-member Support and Integration Team are readily available to meet with youngsters and work through any problems in a safe and non-punitive fashion using natural and logical consequences. These staff members, with backgrounds in social work and psychology, fashion interactions geared to the event and the youngster. Not only do they resolve that event but also seek to provide pro-active skills rather than reactive  to learn how to avoid further events. The efforts of our SIT are fully integrated with all our camper support involvements. They also are significantly involved in the ongoing range of generous praise and recognition that each and every camper receives while at camp.


15.  How is laundry done?

A professional camp laundry service picks up, washes, and then returns camper laundry each week. Our clothing list suggests a supply for 10 days. In addition, towels are laundered on camp which allows everyone to have fresh towels each time they swim or at shower hour each day. Camp also provides sheets, pillow cases and blankets to everyone. Campers are asked to bring a favorite pillow. (A stuffed animal or two is also welcomed as campers make their area more home-like).


16.  Tell us about camp's food service.

Our food is prepared by seasoned food professionals who are skilled at meeting the needs of a camper population while also serving foods that are tasty, nutritious, and attractive. Our meals are served family style by our oldest campers (as part of their job experience). Every effort is made to reduce preservatives and added sugars. We are also masterful at meeting a range of special diets including gluten free, casein free, vegetarian, dairy sensitivity as well as picky eaters. Camp is nut free (our peanut butter is actually a soy product), and our foods are prepared and served according to the Jewish dietary laws. There are three snacks each day including fresh fruits as well as the camp favorite of milk and cookies at bedtime. We even provide sandwiches to some of our campers who have reduced lunch time appetites as a result of their medications. We do not provide campers with soda, and our canteen snacks are simple: cookies, bags of crisps, or simple ice cream novelties.


17.  Who will provide my child with their daily medications and health care?

Camp enjoys the services of a fully staffed and equipped health center. Managed by our on-site pediatrician (no trips to an on-call doc for us), we also have five Pennsylvania licensed nurses who attend to the needs of our community. All regular medications are distributed by a nurse – and done in a fashion that is unobtrusive (at mealtime in the dining hall, traveling to camper cabins at wake up or bedtime, and even traveling to visit a mid morning or mid afternoon bowling party or canoe trip!). Your child’s meds are pre-packaged to facilitate accuracy (you will be told about Medicine On Time when enrolling). Our health center has a number of private and group rooms that support kids who need time away from their group. Wayne Memorial Hospital is located 20 minutes from camp if sophisticated support is required. If treatment includes an overnight in the health center, hospital visit, or the introduction of a new medicine, the family is always contacted.


18.  How do I know my child will be safe at camp?

Campers are supervised at all times during the day and evening. No camper is ever left alone. Camp also has watchmen on duty overnight who patrol and watch over camp while everyone sleeps. In addition to physical safety, there are numerous protocols and systems to support each and every camper’s emotional and spiritual safety as well. Summit Camp is also an American Camp Association accredited camp, which sets high standards for safety (see below for more information on ACA).


19.  What is the level of functioning of your campers?

The majority of our campers attend local public schools where they are in mainstream education for most or part of the day. Some of our campers attend private schools for children with learning differences. Many of our campers are academically gifted. We carefully screen all prospective campers as we want to make sure that we are the best match for each child. We do not offer a level of support for campers that have limited language/communication skills, present with oppositional or aggressive behaviors, have mobility issues, or have limited self-care skills. Not every applicant is accepted, although we are always able to provide references to other summer camps that might be more suitable.


20.  Can campers bring electronics (video games, cell phones) to camp?

Many of our campers who struggle with social issues may use electronics as a replacement for interaction with peers. We recognize these have become essential parts of our campers’ routines. Instead of excluding them completely we have designed a format for controlled and limited use. Handheld games and IPods/MP3 players are allowed to be used during designated times only – most often during a rest hour or free play (just before evening activity). Some of our campers fall asleep listening to their device. They may not be used otherwise, and are often collected by the counselors in a central location. Cell phones and laptop computers are not permitted at camp. Any device that has internet capability must either be disabled, or is excluded as well.


21.  Who are the Staff?

With a minimum age of 20, our counselors and program staff are advance standing college students and young professionals who have a demonstrated interest and skill set in working with our children. Among others, they are drawn from the fields of special education, recreation, psychology, child care, therapeutic recreation, occupational therapy, social work, and nursing. The summer begins with an intensive six-day staff training orientation. Our key staff, adventure staff, and waterfront staff arrive even earlier to have specific trainings designed for their areas. During the summer there are weekly in-service meetings that are designed to continually improve the skills and techniques used by our staff -  these are scheduled during the program day to avoid conflict with free time or other staff leisure activities (no napping or tired staff here). Many of our male groups find that one of the three general counselors is a female. Purposely designed, we have had great positive experience having this gender balance. They do not live with the boys, but find their full day spent in support of the group. Male specialists live in and provide the live in staff ratios we enjoy. Camp's key leadership are mature and experienced with significant years of demonstrated successful experience. Summit thives on its continuity of direction starting with Senior Director Gene Bell ,Head Counselor Debs Hugil, Assistant Director Abbey Ball and their team. Making fun is hard and serious work which they embrace enthusisatically.


22.  How is camp's staff selected?

All of our staff goes through a rigorous review process. This includes a personal interview, review of references, and the completion of background checks. Camp routinely enjoys a high staff return rate. Our staff come with demonstrated experience in work with special children, clear interest in being positive role models, and personalities that are energetic and enthusiastic. Our specialty counselors also have previous experience teaching and directing in their interest area. Our staffing process is selective, making sure to only gather the best to work with our great campers.


22.  How do we apply?

Boys and girls ages 8-19 are eligible to apply to Summit Camp & Travel. Please click here and you will be brought to our application process instructions. We realize it is a lengthy process but believe that the care we take in exploring enrollment will benefit and support the experience we can provide to your child.


23.  Do you accept insurance or other methods of tuition support?

Summit Camp & Travel is not a clinical program therefore tuition is usually not covered by insurance. Many of our families are able to claim this as a medical expense, however. This would require a letter of support from your health professional. A portion, or in some cases, all of your child's tuition may be covered by your school district if your child is eligible for extended school year (ESY) services. Please check with your school district as this is specific to each district. We are able to provide cost breakdowns for child care and professional support as requested.


24.  Are you accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA)?

Summit Camp & Travel has chosen to be a full member of the American Camp Association and is an Accredited Camp. Accreditation means that Summit Camp cares enough to undergo a thorough (up to 300 standards) review of its operation — from staff qualifications and training to emergency management. The American Camp Association® collaborates with experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross, and other youth-serving agencies to assure that current practices at the camp reflect the most up-to-date, research-based standards in camp operation. Camps and ACA form a partnership that promotes summers of growth and fun in an environment committed to safety. In addition, Eugene Bell, camp’s senior director, is an ACA Accredited Camp Director and also serves as an accreditation standards visitor.

Once enrolled, these and many more details of camp life are available to our camper families are detailed in our Parent Handbook.