I had two careers as a youngster. For nine months of the year, I was a professional student, except this was non-profit work and no one paid me to bomb Algebra. The other three months of the year – oh, those glorious summers – I co-owned a (barely) for-profit business mowing lawns.
My brother and I shoved lawnmowers around neighbors’ yards for the mega return of $17 per yard, before expenses.
Doing this type of work in 100-degree heat wasn’t optional. My parents, thank goodness, wouldn’t allow their sons to sit on the couch for three months watching one of the three channels we had back then – our back yard didn’t have room for a satellite dish the size of Rhode Island.
But there was another reason I did this miserable work: I needed money for summer camp.
Each spring, right about the time I had sickened of school, we’d get a host of envelopes in the mail from colleges around the South touting their basketball or baseball camps, and that would be the best week of my summer.
The deal around my house was that my parents would pay for half the camp and I’d earn the money for the other half. So mow yards I did, and each summer, one of my best buddies, Eric, and I would head off to Gainesville or Baton Rouge or Atlanta or Tuscaloosa for a week playing basketball in 100-degree heat.
Things are a little different these days, and I had no idea until one of my colleagues filled me in. Where people my age went to one or two camps a week, these days, there’s a camp for every week of the summer.
I suppose things are different because we have more homes where both mom and dad work, and that leaves little time to keep up with the middle schoolers. Thus, one of the options for working parents is to send their children to camp each week of the summer.
The first time I realized this was about three years ago, and I talked to the folks at our office about maybe hosting a camp of our own at some point. We didn’t have the staff or the know-how to do it, but we always kept that idea on the back burner.
This year, we’re done talking about it and we’re going to do it – except with a twist.
During the week of July 10-13, The Leader is going to host a media camp for young people in our community. Ideally, we’d like children 10-15 years old – just old enough to know how to write, but not so old that they’ve already figured out the world.
I’m really excited about our plans for the camp, and it’s fun to be able to introduce it here.
First, we’re going to teach students about journalism writing, which is so much better than sitting down and growling over a book report. We’re going to teach them how to observe and listen to a set of facts, and they’ll learn how to take that information and craft it in a manner that anyone can read. We’ll teach them interviewing skills that allow them to have conversations that go far beyond normal yes-no sessions.
Of course, we’re going to teach them about newspapers, and we’re even going to have the students publish their own paper that will be part of our July 15 edition of The Leader. But we’re going to offer more than just print – because what kid wants to spend a week learning about print.
We’re going to have the students build their own news website from scratch, even teaching them a little about some of the tools they can use to create their own. (The more I think about this, the more I wonder if these youngsters aren’t actually going to teach me about it.)
Along with writing, students are going to get a full day of TV work, and we’ve already got the camera crew lined up to do the filming. We’re going to spend time learning a little about radio, allowing the students to record their own podcasts, and we’re going to give them a session on photography, teaching them how they can use their smart phones to take wonderful pictures.
There’s one last thing that likely will interest parents. We’re going to spend a day teaching the students about social media, the ramifications of using it wrong, and how they can use it correctly to safely and popularly build their “digital” persona.
One of the reasons I’m so excited about The Leader’s Media Camp is because of the direction news has taken in the past few years. What once was a very filtered and trustworthy form of information has become anything but that today.
A few weeks ago, someone stopped by my office to talk about the state of the media and, specifically, The Leader newspaper. At the end of our conversation, this person offered a very poignant thought: “You know, local news is about the only news you can trust these days.”
I don’t know if I’ll ever forget that line, and I believe it more and more every day I come to work. Trust is about the only thing we have left with our audience, and that’s something we’d like to pass along to some of our young people.
If you (or your children) are interested in the camp, please send me an email. You can also visit our website, theleadernews.com/mediacamp to learn more about the week we have planned, and to sign up.
The cost for the camp will be $250, it will last from 8-5 each day, and we’ll even have early drop off and late pick up. Lunch is provided and I personally promise the students will love it.
In the next couple of weeks, we’ll also announce a scholarship program for these students. If you own a local business or want to help send a child to this camp, let me know and I’ll be glad to help.