Flash to the Past: Grady Camp evolves

The beginning of Grady College high school summer camp did not start with the Georgia Center. It was an independent camp for 37 years and only coordinated journalism classes.

“We had been running the journalism academy for more than three decades as a college independently.” Dr. Joe Dennis said. “One of the goals that I had when I was a director was you getting some freedom to explore because part of the experience is getting to know the campus.”

Prior to working with The Georgia Center, the camp’s name was The Georgia Journalism Academy.This Academy was established back in 1982. Dennis was the director from 2005-2015. He explained his technique and goals on how he led this camp for 10 years. Dennis tried to give campers time to explore and have time for themselves. Freedom was needed for the classes itself, as students conducted interviews with professors, students, local businesses or citizens in Athens for research about the pieces they were writing.

“The whole camp was a journalism camp and the classes were broken down into different beats of journalism,” Dennis said. “If a couple students needed to go across campus to interview whoever, we could call up one of those eight counselors to transport them.”

The Georgia Journalism Academy was run by 8-10 undergraduate students to take care of the campers. They would live with the campers in the dorms and help transport the campers all around campus. Since it was a journalism camp, campers would go and interview people for their stories. These stories could be anything from sports to features to editorial writing. Broadcasting, photojournalism and advertising were also offered.

 “Some of the people who have gone to this camp are now in big places, who work in media in CNN, ABC,CBS, doing PR for big companies now,” Dennis said. “I think the camp was a huge influence for high school students to see what their interests are early on to help them figure out what they want to study when they get older.”

This program offered six types of different journalism genres to study and explore.The more campers learned about the majors they could study, the more it helped with their long term career choices. Real people who have experienced this camp are now a part of huge companies and are thriving in the journalism field.

“If there’s any student who’s on the fence on whether they want to be a part of journalism, they need to come to this camp because it just furthers that passion” said Jack Patterson, a former camper. “The curriculum was awesome, I learned so much from my professors.”

Patterson went to the journalism camp in 2008 and 2009, and is now a professional journalist working as a sports anchor and reporter at CBS-affiliate WRBL News 3 in Columbus, Georgia. Patterson described his time in Grady camp as “Incredible. I have friends from the camps that are friends for life.”

He also explained the activities he got to experience: bowling, go carting, exploring the campus, and a banquet in the press box at the UGA Stadium. Patterson offers some advice to current campers: “Be resilient, there will be so many no’s but you have to bounce back.”

The camp has changed significantly since Patterson attended, in part due to its partnership with the Georgia Center.

“The Georgia Center runs the logistics so the dorms, food and activities,” said Stephanie Moreno, scholastic journalism outreach coordinator for Grady.

One thing that has changed due to the partnership is the out of class activities, which are no longer run by Grady. In a sign up sheet for the camp published in 2015, it showed that camp activities included rollerskating, a cookout, a pool day, a closing banquet and other outdoor activities.

Compared to that schedule, some of this year’s campers say that the current camp feels “unorganized” and “restricted”.

“I wish I would’ve know how strict the camp would’ve been before I signed up for it,” said Adriana Acevedo, a 2022 journalism camper. “It just felt like there was so much miss communication all week.”

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.”

2022 journalism camp partners with Georgia Center

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.” 

YSL RICO Charge

During the month of March, police arrested Young Stoner Life (YSL) record label rappers, Young Thug and Gunna as well as multiple other alleged YSL affiliates on a RICO charge. Authorities suspect that YSL is more than a record label, but a fully-run gang. 

Referred to as RICO, the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act was created by the federal government to combat and take down organized crime organizations, gangs and Mafia mobs. Although the RICO act targets these organizations, only 35 crimes make up the list associated with the act. These include gambling, murder, kidnapping, extortion, arson, robbery, bribery, death and counterfeiting. RICO contains four main elements: proof that an enterprise or organization exists, interstate commerce, employment by the enterprise, and that affairs were conducted by employees or associates of the enterprise. 

“The sentence one might receive for a RICO charge reaches up to 20 years and also depends on the defendant’s criminal history,” law student Lexi Deagen said. 

Prosecutors assume that Young Thug, also known as Jeffery Williams, acts as one of the ringleaders in the YSL gang. Williams was accused of renting a car that was used in the commission of murder and he was also charged with an attempt to murder rapper YFN Lucci. Legal authorities already had their eye out for Thug for previous crimes, such as possession of illegal substances and firearms. To further accuse Williams, authorities used lyrics from his previous songs as evidence. Although some may say that this violates the 1st Amendment’s freedom of expression, this amendment does not protect defendants from prosecutors using their song lyrics against them. 

Gunna, also known as Sergio Kitchens, received a RICO charge at the same time as Young Thug and turned himself in hours after Young Thug was arrested. Prosecutors have accused him of offenses such as stolen property and illegal drug distribution. Gunna was recently denied bail by a Georgia judge regarding his case, however, he still pleads innocent. 

“I listen to Young Thug every once in a while, I’m a pretty solid fan, especially Gunna, I think the RICO charge might honestly help the record label because people are going to want to help them. Also, the more it gets in the public eye it’s going to get the label more attention and make them more popular. For the rappers individually though, they’re in jail so that’s never good.” UGA journalism student Sebastian Baggett said.

Not only does this change impact the YSL rappers and the record label, but it affects the fans as well. With multiple popular artists signed to YSL, the charges against these rappers caused disappointment among fans. As a result, the label will lose both money and record sales.

“Those rappers are some of the most popular in Atlanta and we need them to put out music. As a fan, I don’t know what we’re going to do without their music. I don’t know for sure what they did and I’m kinda 50/50 about whether they did it or not, but I hope they are innocent because without them, what will we listen to?” said a UGA Student. 

The Changing Role of SATs and ACTs

Like many high school seniors last spring, Georgia native Jaydon Dennis applied to many colleges in the hopes of gaining admission. One decision he had that past senior didn’t have to worry about is whether to include his SAT score on the application. 

 “I liked the schools that requested test scores because I felt like my scores reflected my intellect more than my GPA did,” says Dennis. He chose to send his scores to certain schools but refrained from sending his scores to others due to the fees required to do so. 

There are many factors that go into whether or not one decides to submit their scores, or will make a point to apply to colleges that do not require test scores. 

Rising high school seniors from all over the country are just beginning their journey through the lengthy college admissions process. Between essays, recommendation letters and resumes, applying to college is not an easy task. Many students have already completed the first step of this journey by taking the SAT and ACT. 

As some schools move to become test-optional, colleges have been putting a larger emphasis on the different areas of a student’s application. As standardized testing is appearing to play a smaller role in the admissions process, many are left questioning the future and importance of the ACT and SAT. 

Wade LaFontaine is the Senior Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Georgia. UGA has refrained from continuing to be test-optional after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as LaFontaine explains, these scores are still pertinent in the admissions process. 

“Standardized test scores are supplemental to our review, but do add some context to the student’s performance,” says LaFontaine, “It allows us to understand that the student is not only great in the classroom but a good test taker as well.” 

Although many universities continue to require test scores, others have become test-optional. Rumors about the motives behind test-optional schools are common. Many believe that they are using this as a tactic to increase applications to bring in more money to the institution.

Although every university has its own reasons for putting certain policies in place, it is important to remember that “test-optional” does not necessarily guarantee an increase in applications. 

“During Covid, we were test-optional. It was the first time in history since we’ve started requiring tests that even if someone had an SAT or ACT score, they weren’t required to submit it,” says LaFontaine, “Even being test-optional, there wasn’t as much of an increase as you think there would be without having a test be required.”

Not every college is prioritizing financial gains during the admissions process. The University of Georgia is an example of an institution that values quality over quantity. 

“We want the best applications, not the most,” says LaFontaine. “We don’t want to be seen as a state adding extra applications for application fees to increase revenue. Our goal is to provide education to as many students as possible, but to also make sure that they’re successful.” 

Some colleges argue that they are test-optional because they believe that it is more important to see what students accomplish during their high school career as opposed to a single test. 

Just because a school requires test scores doesn’t mean that they haven’t developed a similar mindset. “Our university will be in a good position to have amazingly high achieving students with or without test scores,” LaFontaine says.

The SATs and ACTs aren’t everything they once were when it comes to college applications. However, the likelihood of these tests disappearing for good is still a long shot and extremely unlikely to happen anytime soon.    

“While schools may become more test-optional, ACT and SAT would be likely to adjust,” says LaFontaine. “Any business that is a business of that magnitude that has a national reputation will likely find a way to continue to be part of the higher education landscape.”

‘Constant Anxiety’: How Gun Violence Affects the Mental Health of Today’s Teens

Mary Panitz was a freshman at Rockledge High School when a bus driver in her community reported that there was a student pointing a rifle walking onto her school campus. After being barricaded in a classroom for two hours, seeing her classmates cry and witnessing SWAT officers pointing guns at students, an extremely distraught Panitz and her peers were told the school shooter warning was a false alarm. Although no one was hurt and the school officials never spoke of it afterwards, the toll of this false alarm is one of many examples of the emotional cost of the constant threat of gun violence in American schools.

According to the Center for Homeland Defense and Security, since 1970, there have been 1,924 school shooting incidents in the US, with 2021 having the greatest number at 249. Hundreds of thousands of children have been affected by gun violence at school, but millions have been impacted by constant media coverage of school shootings across the nation.

Even for those who are not involved in a shooting or false alarm, media coverage alone or close proximity can be a trigger for stress and anxiety. 15-year-old Abigail Finnerty, who lives 20 minutes away from Oxford High School, where four students were killed in Nov. 2021, has personal experience with the shockwaves that shootings cause in a community.

“[The shooter] used to go to my elementary school, so in another world there’s a good chance that it could have been my high school,” Finnerty said. “I didn’t go to school for three days… nobody could sleep for a week or so. It definitely freaked everyone out a lot.”

Finnerty, a rising sophomore at Clarkston High School in Clarkston, Michigan, recounts the copycat threats her school received in the days after the shootings, the panic and paranoia within her community, and her resulting inability to truly feel safe at school. After the closeness of this experience, she has become more aware of the lack of safety measures to prevent these events and the realness of the threat of gun violence, though she said her vigilance, due to the frequency of these incidents, has remained the same.

“I think I had most of the same opinion that there needs to be some kind of change, but I think for me and others it really brought it right into reality.” Finnerty said. “I am… usually trying to keep an eye out, and be aware of my surroundings, but… I guess I’ve sort have always done it.”

Similarly, Panitz, when speaking of the main cause of her anxiety about violent occurrences, said she “… [doesn’t] know if it was this specific incident that was apart of it or just the rise of shootings in general and knowing about other shootings near me.”

Finnerty and Panitz’s stories point to the effects of being closely affected by the threat of a shooting, as well as the consequences of the frequency of school shootings in the media. Even if children aren’t directly involved in school shootings, they are significantly affected by them, according to Kira Riehm, a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Anxiety and stress in teenagers has been linked to higher rates of several diseases, poor performance in school and further mental health problems.

Neither students have been getting involved in efforts to prevent gun violence, but both acknowledge the need to make change in order to save lives and ease pain across the nation.

“I think that change is needed because it’s happened too many times for this to be a random one off,” says Finnerty. “All of these incidents change so many people and it feels like people only really change or care when it happens somewhere close.”