Many parents looking for summer camps for kids

Like many working parents, Priscilla Yeung faces a fresh child-rearing challenge when school lets out for the summer: finding something for her 7-year-old daughter, Miriya, to do.

Although there are more than 250 day camp offerings in the Sacramento area, choosing one often isn’t easy, Yeung said.

“I need to find something meaningful and productive for my daughter to do that will enhance her growth as a person,” she said. “Not just academics, but in other areas as well, so I’m definitely looking for a safe environment with qualified staff to really spend time with her.”

The area’s camp offerings are more specialized, expanding parents’ options from the typical fare of sports and arts to computer programing , restaurant operations and even firefighting. The change is due in part to the continuation of a societal shift away from lazy summer days spent playing with the kids down the street.

“People want more specific things rather than a general thing,” said Pam Allen, a spokeswoman for Roseville’s parks department. “They want camps that are more themed to their particular interest. You do all week doing cooking or all week doing sports.”

There is a steady increase in demand for camps focusing on technology, math, science and engineering, said Karen Thurm Safran, vice president of marketing at iD Tech, which runs camps at 80 universities in 28 states and two dozen iD Tech courses at California State University, Sacramento, this summer. Safran said there has been a 15 percent increase in demand over last year in iD Tech’s project-based camps.

“Tech is cool now,” she said. “It has just become easily accessible and really cool and hip.”

Teri Peterson, 52, of Gold River enrolled her sons, John, 14, and Steven, 12, in Teens in the LEAD (Leadership, Education, Adventure and Development) Camp at Hagan Community Center in Rancho Cordova because she didn’t want them to be home alone all summer while she and her husband were at work.

Campers at Teens in the LEAD can gain skills such as team building, manners and socializing without the distraction of electronics, said Tammy White, Natomas recreation site supervisor of the camp.

Weekly activities for campers ages 11 to 15 include bike rides, leadership activities and cooking. Among the recent outings was a trip to the Auburn Journal newspaper.

Yeung sent Miriya back to a camp she attended last year: a drama program for first- through eighth-graders called Act Dance Sing, run by the Sacramento Theatre Company.

Miriya and 51 other campers take classes in curricula tailored to their age group. They also learn yoga, stage combat, and arts and crafts; older students participate in a TV and film seminar.

Michele Hillen-Noufer, education director of the Sacramento Theatre Company, said some campers have gone on to pursue careers in theater and acting. After attending last year, Miriya participated in local theater productions and appeared in a television commercial, Yeung said.

“At the end of the summer, parents may be like, “Oh, wow, my kid keeps telling me how much they love dance. I never even thought about that. I guess we’ll try dance during the year,’” Hillen-Noufer said.

This week, 32 kids will have the chance to prepare for a very different career when they learn the ins and out of firefighting though a camp run by the Roseville Fire Department. Most participants are ages 11 to 14, with a handful of returning 15- and 16-year-old campers.

“They do everything we do,” said fire engineer Joe Lapenna, who runs the camp.

During the four-day camp, which starts Monday, the kids will learn to rappel from buildings, operate Jaws of Life and practice the basics of whitewater rescues.

“The last day, we do live fire drills,” Lapenna said.

“It’s supersafe,” he offered reassuringly.

Priscilla Yeung said that ideally, the value of camp to Miriya will go beyond career preparation.

“I think the skills that she gained from (Act Dance Sing) she could take into any career path she decides to take,” Yeung said. “My hope is that she’ll do something meaningful with the skills that she’s gained and be able to bring about something positive in this world.”