Quantity Over Quality? A Closer Look Into the Restrictions of Summer Academy

There has been a shift of freedom and guidelines since the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication partnered with the University of Georgia’s Summer Academy Program since 2021.

“Those camps literally changed my life because it decided, fully what I wanted to do for a living, it also gave me friends that I’ll have for the rest of my life,” former camper in 2008 and 2009, Jack Patterson says. “I had a great time, I loved going up there, I loved being able to go see what downtown Athens had to offer, I loved being able to explore the campus…it was just a lot a fun.”

Guidelines of freedom while being a camper at UGA has changed. Before 2021, Grady hosted an independent camp that managed the housing, food and curriculum as well as the afternoon activities and daily schedule of the camp. “We went bowling…we went go cart racing, that was a lot of fun,” Patterson says.

Since the Georgia Center/UGA Summer Academy partnered with Grady, restrictions outside the classroom have become significantly stricter. According to Stephanie Moreno, director of the Grady portion of the camp, the partnership was formed mainly to help with camp logistics.

“Really all that Grady has to do is just show up. We take care of the activities, we take care of housing,” says Bryce Martin, youth coordinator and the director of Summer Academy. “The Georgia Center has their own system that we can use for collecting information for everyone, our registration system, we handle the overnight portion of our program.”

Although the partnership has helped Grady with registration and organization, there is a sense among campers that the quality of the camp itself has been altered. Overall the restrictions and strict schedule implemented by Summer Academy has changed the Grady summer camp’s character.

Compared to a daily schedule from the independent Grady Camp in 2015, directed by Joe Dennis, the present 2022 schedule lacks in freedom. In the schedule from 2015, campers were given multiple opportunities to explore the campus with fellow campers, and participate in fun activities off campus as an entire group. “You had plenty of freedom to go around and mingle with people, and thats what we ended up doing, that’s where those friendship were made,” said Patterson recalling 2008.

For overnight students, in 2015, the lights-out time was 11p.m.-12a.m., where presently the lights-out time is 9:30p.m. “Lights out by 10:45 not 9:30,” a 2022 camper wrote on an informal survey given to Grady campers.

To come to a college campus, there should be a feel to the college lifestyle to an extent, a sense of freedom. Presently, this freedom is not felt by campers.

“More freedom,” another 2022 camper writes.

“You guys weren’t just stuck in a room all day. It was getting to check out and see UGA as a whole, that was my big push,” Martin says.

The intent of less restrictions is there, but to the Georgia Center, it is seen as unattainable.

To the present 2022 campers, there is a sense of overpowering restrictions to having fun at a camp that used to have more freedom. Obviously, the campers are minors and must be safe under the UGA Minors protection policy that makes sure that ‘Anyone that works with minors has to go through…a process…a background check,” Martin says.

Of course, there is a reason that “there are restrictions in place, I should know where you are at all times.”

Martin said his challenge is controlling freedom between the different age gaps at this camp.

“An 11-year-old has to be managed compared to someone who’s older and 17, how do I get that gap between them, and it is very difficult. There really isn’t always the opportunity or me to say, ‘Your 17 years old, go, do whatever you want’, so as much as I would love to say ‘Hey, go downtown, do what you want, have some fun, we have as much freedom as possible as we can out there,” Martin says.

During the 37 years before Grady partnered with Summer Academy, all campers were in high school, but because the Georgia Center expanded the age to middle school, these restrictions burden the older kids and prevent them from their freedom to experience the campus.

But many campers think there is a better balance that can be struck between keeping campers safe and allowing them flexibility to experience the University of Georgia campus.

“I wish I had more freedom,” said Sydney Van Dillen, a student in the journalism class. “I thought I would experience the campus more than I have.”

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