Two generations of campers soak up SCATS experience

By Josh Raymer

Much like the hereditary traits that determine a child’s eye color or whether they have dimples, parents often pass down experiences that changed their lives. Some parents found SCATS so transformative during their youth that they sent their children as campers this summer. These parents echoed a similar refrain – the unique combination of classes, optionals, new friendships, and magic moments make SCATS the type of experience that’s worth passing on to new generations.

“SCATS was one of the very best experiences of my youth,” recalled Rebecca Simpson, who attended in 1986 and 1987. “At SCATS, I felt free to truly be myself. Being smart and creative was normal. I instantly connected with other campers who shared my interests, and I felt like I belonged. The experience provided me with inner strength and confidence that I have drawn upon throughout my life.”

Rebecca’s daughter Emma, of Bowling Green, remembers her mom saying she made new friends at SCATS. Now that she’s at SCATS for the first time, Emma said she’s experienced the same welcoming environment as her mother: “The friends I’ve made here are so nice,” she said. “Everyone comes up to you and says, ‘Hey, how are you?’ I usually don’t get that at school. It’s really nice to have that for a change.”

A primary reason for sending gifted children to SCATS is to expose them to classes they wouldn’t have access to in their home schools. Troy Coleman attended SCATS in 1983 and 1984 and has sent two daughters to camp – Grace (2013-14) and Piper, who attended for the first time this year. “I want them to have fun learning in classes that stretch their ideas about what a ‘class’ can be,” he asserted. “I hope they meet friends who are enthusiastic, inquisitive, and thoughtful. I hope those experiences with new ideas and new friends create in them a lifelong desire to always seek out and courageously engage in opportunities like SCATS wherever they go.”

Piper, who resides in Bowling Green, took her father’s words to heart. By making the most of classes like Make Art Live: Commedia Dell’arte and optionals like Capture the Flag, Piper has created memories that will stick with her long after camp concludes. “I’ll remember specific stuff, like some of the weird jokes,” she said, “but also learning to be nice to everybody and trying to learn a lot wherever you are.”

Piper Coleman (left) of Bowling Green works on a mask Monday, June 15 during Make Art Live: Commedia Dell'arte. Piper's older sister and father have both attended SCATS as well. (Photo by Sam Oldenburg)
Piper Coleman (left) of Bowling Green works on a mask Monday, June 15 during Make Art Live: Commedia Dell’arte. Piper’s older sister and father have both attended SCATS as well. (Photo by Sam Oldenburg)

New friends and challenging classes are two major reasons why alumni send their children to SCATS. Pang Hartman, who attended VAMPY in 1989, wanted her daughter Anya to experience the personal growth that comes with being away from home for two weeks. “I knew that the camp was incredibly safe and would allow my child to get a glimpse of what higher education may do for her,” Pang explained. “We needed to let her spread her wings and learn some independence. This was an excellent chance to begin to explore who she is outside of our guidance.”

Anya, of Lexington, has made new friends at SCATS and challenged herself in classes ranging from The Chemistry of Everyday to Acting. She’s savored the tasty cuisine – “The food is actually a lot better than I thought it would be” – and relished those unexpected moments that make SCATS so memorable. “We were burning nuts in Chemistry and it melted a cup,” she recounted. “It was really cool!”

Amanda Brooks, who attended SCATS in 1984 and is teaching The Chemistry of Everyday this summer, echoed Troy’s sentiment by saying she wanted her daughter, Heidi, to take advantage of the unique class offerings at SCATS.

“I wanted my daughter to have the fun of learning for the sake of learning,” she said. “Heidi gets that in many ways by being home-schooled because she has more freedom to learn other things that aren’t the traditional school subjects. Many of the SCATS classes are classes that she couldn’t get anywhere else though.”

Heidi, who resides in Bowling Green, admitted that her mom’s class was her favorite and that she’s enjoyed the optionals, especially the athletic ones like Capture the Flag. “I swim and play baseball with my friends for fun,” she said. Before coming to SCATS, Heidi said her mom talked about a photography class that she had loved.

“I still have the camera!” Amanda exclaimed. “I made it out of an oatmeal box (called a pinhole camera) and took real photos with it that I developed and printed.”

Emma Simpson (left) of Bowling Green sprays a water fire extinguisher during Chemistry of Everyday Wednesday, June 17. Emma's mother also attended SCATS when she was in middle school. (Photo by Sam Oldenburg)
Emma Simpson (left) of Bowling Green sprays a water fire extinguisher during Chemistry of Everyday Wednesday, June 17. Emma’s mother also attended SCATS when she was in middle school. (Photo by Sam Oldenburg)

Having unforgettable SCATS experiences that span two generations has turned these parents into advocates for the transformative summer experience. Pang witnessed the changes SCATS sparked in Anya last summer and encourages other parents to pursue similar growth opportunities for their children: “I actually talk to a lot of parents about SCATS since VAMPY was such an amazing experience for me, and SCATS has given Anya a sense of confidence and discovery that has done wonders for her academic and artistic success this past school year.”

Inspired by his own experience, Troy summed up the camp by saying: “SCATS is about linking learning and fun together. For a variety of reasons, that link may not always be apparent to your child in a regular classroom. If you have child that loves to learn new things, make new connections, and explore advanced topics that may never be covered in their regular classes, then SCATS is a great place for them to be.”

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