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Kids Just Want to Have Fun.

By Alina Makhnovetsky

Julian Krinsky offers a new kind of summer camp.

When most of us think of summer camp, we reflect on the glory days of log cabins, campfires, “Kumbaya” and s’mores. However, in a world of intense technology, immediate gratification and an almost fanatical need for success, archery lessons and hiking trails seem outdated. For today’s savvy youngsters, camp in the traditional sense—climbing trees, swimming in lakes and feasting on canteen goodies—has simply lost its charm. It seems no one is willing to leave iPods and cell phones at home to spend a week or longer in the wilderness.

Moving along with this generation’s progressive, highly-driven society are the Julian Krinsky Camps and Programs. The modern twist is well beyond what most would even conceptualize as camp, offering a resort-like atmosphere, sophisticated courses and luxurious accommodations, as well as professional experts, state-of-the-art equipment and facilities so impressive adults would be jealous.

The camp empire—which today includes 20 different programs and last year hosted more than 5,000 students from 35 states and 30 countries—was launched as a part-time tennis school in a Philadelphia suburb. Retired professional tennis player Julian Krinsky, who competed at Wimbledon, the French Open and the Maccabi Games before moving to Philadelphia, began giving lessons when he moved to the region in 1977. Word of his effective methods spread so quickly, the tennis pro opened the Julian Krinsky School of Tennis just a year later. Now, the world-renowned tennis camp is a concentrated mix of individualized coaching, private lessons, video analysis and up to five hours of daily instruction for players of any ability.

A few years later, the school launched its golf camp. PGA and EGTF qualified professionals teach the game’s fundamentals, and participants play nine to 15 holes daily and compete in weekly tournaments on Philadelphia’s most prominent courses.

In an effort to develop activities for young people of all interests, Krinsky and his wife Tina hosted focus groups to discover what activities children want while at camp. Today, campers can choose from an array of specialized activities including fashion design, cooking and business. Community service sessions, in which students spend their days volunteering at soup kitchens, libraries and other nonprofit organizations in the region, are also offered. Through these sessions, students gain first-hand experience in giving back to the city. Courses cover such pertinent social issues as poverty, hunger and homelessness, and instructors strive to instill a sense of community and empowerment in young adults.

The foreign policy and international relations class—taught at the University of Pennsylvania—is supplemented with guest speakers, foreign embassy representatives and political scholars, presenting a global look at social and political issues.

Further, numerous internships for subsequent college credit and SAT prep lessons are available, as well as an engineering and robotics program. In other words, tangible skills, not nature walks, are what kids can learn through these programs.

Henry Morgan of Philadelphia participated in a two-week senior enrichment program, which caters to youths aged 14 through 17, with a major focus on cooking. “I learned so much. We even got to visit Chinatown and learn about international ingredients, not just basic cooking,“he said. “It wasn’t being constantly in the kitchen, either, it was just fun.” Simon Solis-Cohen agrees, “It was a life changing experience,” said the 15–year-old, who has participated in Krinsky programs for the past three years. Solis-Cohen most recently took part in a five-week cooking program lead by Chef Carlo DeMarco of 333 Belrose in Radnor. What began as a learning experience turned into a career opportunity, when Solis-Cohen asked to work in DeMarco’s kitchen. “It seemed like such a fun place, I just figured it didn’t hurt to ask.” To Solis-Cohen’s surprise, De Marco agreed, and the young apprentice started working at the restaurant nearly full-time as a prep cook. “I learned so much—how to run a kitchen—it was a lot of responsibility, but an amazing job.” Today, Solis-Cohen hopes to become a top chef. On Saturdays, he works as a chef apprentice to one of the most highly regarded chefs in the industry: Fritz Blanc of Deux Cheminées.

There are numerous options for kids with all levels of interest. The Krinsky Camps and Programs also offer day camps, which feature the same courses as overnight camps. And, unlike traditional camps where the same counselors teach during the day and live with participants on-site, Krinsky’s staff is divided. Professionals and university teachers instruct during the day, and an alternate group of counselors tend to campers at night.

“We don’t see how a tennis instructor can teach all day and still be effective all evening with the students,” explains Tina Krinsky.

The constructive programs still squeeze in plenty of fun activities, from roller skating to swimming to weekend trips to the New Jersey shore or Six Flags Great Adventure. “Young people do not want to be denied access to the outside world,” says Krinsky. Surfing the Internet and visiting the nearby Starbucks is allowed. Moreover, campers can choose to sign up for a session that lasts a week, two weeks or a month. “It is the trend of today’s kids to package their summer with many different opportunities rather than spend the entire summer at one location,” says Krinsky.

This summer, in partnership with renowned health resort The Canyon Ranch, Krinsky Camps and Programs has developed an ultimate summer indulgence for teens. The Canyon Ranch camp combines a spa-inspired atmosphere with personal services such as Citrus Facial and Fizz Ball Pedicures along with more than 100 different workshops and activities. Campers are free to create their own daily schedules, and can spend their days in kickboxing, Pilates or yoga classes, and then unwind with Mindful Meditation or Tai Chi lessons. The camp’s objective is to teach students about healthy choices, and the importance of exercise and balanced diet. “We want to help them to live happier, healthier, fuller lives,” notes Krinsky.

Still, the assortment of programs is not the only thing that sets the Krinsky Camps apart. The accommodations at the camps hardly resemble the shabby bunks from films like “Meatballs” or “Wet Hot American Summer.” Instead, Krinsky revamps campuses at Bryn Mawr College, University of Pennsylvania, Haverford College, Cabrini College and The Shipley School into luxurious summer suites. Participants have full access to athletic facilities, computer labs and libraries. They reside in college dorms, cleaned daily by a housekeeping staff, in either private rooms, or rooms requested to share with a friend. Air-conditioners, small refrigerators and even permission to use cell phones, are some of the other perks.

Although, the Krinsky Camps and Programs keep students on a demanding schedule, the campers do not seem to mind. “Yeah, there are books,” admits Solis-Cohen. “But it doesn’t feel like school. I got to take what I want.” More importantly, the students get to bond with children they wouldn’t have met otherwise. “You meet people from all over the world,” says Morgan. “And the staff is just brilliant.”

Certainly, nothing about the Krinsky Camps and Programs holds true to a traditional camp experience. Filled with creative juices and strong ambitions for the future, young adults find beneficial, stimulating classes. The world is changing, booming with new advances and discoveries—this is another way kids can learn and grow.

Source: Lifestyle Magazine Features - April 2007
Original link: Kids Just Want to Have