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How Are Your Children's Summer Camps Affecting Their Career Opportunities

Thom Ruhe

As a father of three, I vividly remember those chilly, early-summer mornings of packing bags, loading up the car, and waving a sad goodbye as my children began their latest adventure at the summer camp of choosing. And there were plenty of those mornings over the course of 18 years. There was volleyball camp, and Science Olympiad clinics, and lacrosse camp.

Every summer, my children were part of the 11 million Americans--youth and adults--spending their summers at camp. I am grateful to my children's diverse tastes in their summer camp selections. But there's one camp I regret not pushing them toward.

Last month, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Michael Oister and Jayme Cellitioci of Invent Now, a non-profit that looks for new ways to spread the inventive spirit. With the mission of fostering invention from the kindergarten days onward, Invent Now is the parent company of the Collegiate Inventor’s Competition, and National Inventor’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and one of the most innovative summer camps in the nation—Camp Invention.

Camp Invention’s out-of-school summer program encourages youth to examine creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship—all through the lens of invention. With a focus on STEM, as it’s often times the academic vehicle for entrepreneurs, Camp Invention’s curriculum is cutting edge, always evolving and perfected.

Learning more about this camp, which truly is molding the minds of our future innovators, inventors and hopefully entrepreneurs, really got me thinking. Camp Invention serves 90,000 children every summer. That’s 90,000 bright, young minds that emerge with a newly born or renewed, innovative spirit and eye toward creation. But what about the other 90 percent of camp-goers?

Traditional summer camps, whether focused on building a sports skill or building a fire, certainly hold their significance in childhood development. Sports for instance encourage teamwork, build self-confidence and get America’s increasingly overweight youth moving, while survival skills encourage independence and a problem-solving mindset.

Yet I am still dumbfounded by the amount of importance parents place solely on sports camps summer after summer. My eldest son knew at the tender age of 10 that even the most expensive and most extensive basketball camp would never transform him into the next basketball great. But he realized he could learn to think like an entrepreneur; he could nurture his own curiosity, and he could surround himself with like-minded peers who wanted to do the same. He knew that he held the power within himself to one day become an entrepreneur. He’s seeding that future in the collegiate setting now, and kindergarteners are doing the same at Camp Invention sites across the country.

As our world continues to place more and more value on innovation and STEM-driven skills like programming, coding, building and invention, parents need to instill the importance of learning these traits—and making them fun—at the youngest age possible. Doing so will bolster their children’s chances of being successful in their careers, whether working for themselves or someone else. Even more than that, it exposes a child to a world bigger than their own. In today’s society these skills and interests are creating a defining place in our expanding world. If we start them young, America, we will thank ourselves later.

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