Although the Grady College has hosted many overnight journalism camps at the University of Georgia, 2022 marked the first time the Georgia Center is involved.
“We handle the overnight portion of our program,” said Bryce Martin, youth program coordinator for the Georgia Center. “Really all that Grady has to do is just show up.”
The Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication gives the campers a range of classes they can take to learn more about a career they are interested in. Partnering with the Georgia Center allows them to focus on the educational part of the camp. During the COVID pandemic, the Georgia Center originally started online classes over the summer that students could attend, but now they are expanding the camp by hosting overnight campers. They schedule out-of-class activities for the campers and make day plans to keep everything organized.
The day plan includes activities such as going to the pool, movie nights and an on campus scavenger hunt. However, with the summer Georgia heat and multiple activities, it didn’t go according to plan.
“Kids were exhausted, we were actually to the point where kids would fall asleep in class,” Martin said, adding that since then, they changed the schedule around to help fix this problem. “We implemented this schedule change Friday last week.”
Many students believe that the Georgia Center has made rules and schedules that have taken away their freedom and free time. According to an informal survey given to campers, roughly half said they “will not be attending this camp next year” due what they perceive as unreasonable rules and schedules.
Students are instructed to wake up at 6:30 a.m. so they can leave at 7 a.m. to get breakfast. After breakfast the campers go to their classrooms from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. They have activities directly after class sessions that end before dinner around 6:30 p.m. After dinner at 7:30 p.m. more activities are planned until they go back to their dorms. On most nights, campers are instructed to stay in their rooms at 9:30 a.m., and not leave until the morning.
Staff members have noticed the strenuous schedule and feel bad for the kids that are frustrated. “As a counselor you have off from 8:30 to 5:30, and when we pick the kids up, we go from 5:30 to sometimes 9:45, and when we get back to the dorms all of the counselors are so tired,” said one of the camp counselors working the 2022 Summer Academy, who asked to remain anonymous because of his job position. “Unlike us, these kids were going nonstop from 8:30 to whenever we got back to the dorms.”
According to this staff member, the schedule is, “Borderline inhumane.”
The staff members manage the kids in a way where they feel like they have no freedom. Everywhere the campers walk they are supposed to have a counselor with them at all times, even to go to the restroom. “I don’t understand why we have to wrap bubble wrap around y’all,” the counselor said.
Campers do not like the way they are being treated at the camp and have suggested changes to make it more enjoyable. According to survey results, campers wrote the camp could be improved by:
-“Let us go downtown more!
-More interactive activities!
-Give us a waiver so we can tour the campus ourselves in hope of a good experience so we know if we want to apply later on.”
Undoubtedly, the Georgia Center provides stability and deals with the logistics for the journalism camp. But many campers think it’s impacting the overall camp experience in a negative way.
“I genuinely came here with a different idea of the camp,” said a 2022 overnight camper. “I didn’t think it would be so restricted. Especially because the camps back then were so different and not nearly as controlling.”