Area youths had many opportunities to keep active this summer.
Summer camps such as Camp St. Clair, which took place at Boyce Mayview Park in Upper St. Clair, and the Because Academics Matter (BAM) Camps of Oakland Catholic High School provided those opportunities.
This marked the third year for Camp St. Clair at the park.
“They really enjoy having it here,” said Amanda Sekanic, recreation supervisor. “They’re outside all day in the sun. It’s a great setting for our camp.”
Having a camp at a park that contains more than 500 acres actually was fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic, as it was deemed safer to have a summer camp outside than inside at an elementary school, as it had been.
Sekanic said about 150 kids participated in the camp in 2020, a number that grew to 550 throughout this summer.
“Over eight weeks, we’ve had more than 500 campers come in and out through the course of the summer,” Sekanic said. “We have about 200 that come every week.”
The campers are not only from Upper St. Clair but come from other communities as well. It’s open for kids entering grades 1-7.
“It’s really nice to see kids make camp friends,” Sekanic said. “Then the moms exchange numbers and they make play dates throughout the year. Kids get to see friends that they might not be with in school. It’s all super fun for us.”
Those who are entering eighth grade can become counselors in training until they turn 16, when they can be hired to work at the camp. A number of those who have gone through the camp are now staff members.
Kids participate in a number of activities such as soccer, particularly a game they call World Cup; wiffle ball and kick ball at the Miracle League Field on the premises, hikes, archery, swimming and a number of crafts.
“It’s a pretty busy summer,” Sekanic said.
BAM Summer Camps have evolved from the early days of a weeklong camp that focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in cooperation with Pittsburgh Central Catholic High School.
“We have branched off into our own version of it that seems to be better-suited to the girls that were interested in attending them,” said Theresa Hill, director of admissions and financial aid at Oakland Catholic.
The camps are for girls entering grades 6-8.
In June, there were six full-day sessions every Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with each day covering something different, while getting the chance to work with an Oakland Catholic teacher.
Camps such as Artist for a Day provides the girls with the opportunity to become immersed in a hands-on, creative experience, while Tasty Tour of Italy allows participants to try their hand at making traditional Italian dishes and make their own souvenirs.
Led Planetarium takes campers to the school’s Innovation Lab to build a planetarium, and Hoverboard Adventure gives the students the chance to build a hoverboard on which they can ride. The girls actually floated in the school on their hoverboard.
“The most we have is 15 in a camp,” Hill said. “That’s where we cap it off, so there’s personal attention and everybody is able to do what the plan is for the day. All of the camps fill up.”
Oakland Catholic draws students from 45 school districts, which allows the camps to be open to students from many areas.
The camp has been at Oakland Catholic for about five years.
“Even during COVID, we did them through Zoom, so the girls had something to do,” Hill said. “That first summer, when everything was shut down, that was a nice way to keep girls involved in some fun academic learning.”
Hill said there are many advantages to participating in a summer camp such as BAM.
“Obviously, there’s some learning,” she said. “It also provides them an opportunity to become familiar with our school and the faculty here. It’s a chance to meet them and start to receive instruction from them and understand what a class would be like here. It gives them a chance to meet girls from different areas of Pittsburgh.”
There also are programs throughout the year in which the youths can participate.
Camp St. Clair offers Parents Night Out. Parents can drop off the kids for a couple of hours and have a night to themselves.
“The staff from summer camp watches them,” Sekanic said. “We give them a dinner. They’ll go play in our gym. They’ll go swimming. That’s the way I utilize staff throughout the year to keep them engaged and it also keeps those same kids engaged.”
Five BAM Saturday Workshops are scheduled throughout the school year – Oct. 8 and 15, Nov. 12, March 11 and April 1.
“We’re just trying to give the girls more exposure to what we have here to offer them,” Hill said. “They’re having fun while they’re learning.”