Summer Camps Serve Up Fun, Enrichment and Engagement

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Summer Camps Serve Up Fun, Enrichment and Engagement
Whitneye McCoy

Ravenscroft has offered summer camp for more than 45 years, with today’s robust slate spanning athletics, fine arts, STEM, special themed programs and a popular day camp.

For many kids, summer break means summer camp — and all the fun and friendships that come along with it. For more than 45 years, Ravenscroft has offered summer camp experiences for youth from across the Triangle area. Offerings have expanded from the original focus on athletics to include an array of fine arts, STEM and special themed programs plus a day camp, Camp Ravens Nest, bringing children and teens from all over the community to our campus.

Here, we highlight just a few of the camps that ran this past summer.

Clockwise from top left: From STEM and athletics to Camp Ravens Nest, Ravenscroft’s broad range of summer programs offers something for everyone.


Little Ravens Soccer

Director of Auxiliary Services and varsity boys soccer head coach Dan Ressner ’99 runs this popular program for budding athletes in first through fourth grades. Through activities including ball dancing, dynamic warm-ups, soccer scrimmages and games including Freeze Tag, Cross the Ocean and Soccer Golf, campers learn basic soccer skills while developing a passion for the game and for teamwork.

Varsity soccer player Mia Strazzella ’23 was a volunteer counselor for Little Ravens this summer. “My favorite part of the soccer camp this year was playing with the campers and teaching them new things,” she said. “The kids had an amazing time, and we played a lot of fun games. We even had a jersey day where all the campers wore some gear from their favorite team. Overall it was a great week, and I appreciated the opportunity to help work the camp and run around with the kids!”

Some counselors — including Charlie Grant ’23, who is varsity soccer team captain this season — are also former campers. “After doing this camp when I was younger, it was cool to come back and experience it again but from a different point of view. I personally enjoyed watching the campers advance their soccer skills while still having fun,” Charlie said.

In addition to the Little Ravens Soccer camp, Ravenscroft offers a wide range of athletics-focused opportunities, including Cheerleading, which is open to girls in first through 10th grades.


Cupcakes and Coding

Another popular camp is Cupcakes and Coding, run by Anna Lawrence, Upper School computer science teacher and co-coordinator of the Keim Center’s Innovation Lab. She started the camp four years ago as a way to encourage more girls in grades three through five to get involved in computer science.

“I was watching a lot of ‘The Great British Baking Show’ at the time and also had a lot of good memories of baking with my grandmothers. I decided to combine the two passions with the intent to offset some of the initial frustration of problem-solving with tasty treats,” she explained. “Programming is a challenging discipline but one that, with perseverance and a growth mindset, can be a rewarding tool to learn since it can be utilized across so many fields. In ‘More Than Enough’ by Elaine Welteroth, she discusses how a young girl’s confidence peaks at age 9, and my goal through this camp is to bolster my campers’ confidence by developing their budding STEM skills.”

Lawrence offers projects that combine campers’ other interests — art, music, storytelling — with computer science. This year, students designed a cupcake-builder program using their own art and dialogue. “When you clicked a part of the cupcake, it would swap to a new image, such as swapping from vanilla icing to chocolate icing,” Lawrence said.

The world of STEM also comes alive in Patrick Knox’s Junior Scientist camp; here, campers test out their breath-powered rockets.


Harry Potter Wizarding School

New this year, Lower School librarians Emily Zeblo and Jessica Ortolano offered campers in third through fifth grades the chance to celebrate the joys of reading and imagination at the Harry Potter Wizarding School. Both sessions were completely full before the beginning of summer. The camp was held in Winston Library — which the librarians transformed into Hogwarts.

Zeblo said, “My favorite part about the camp was seeing the way ‘Harry Potter’ can bring people together. Many of the campers had never met before the camp and had the best time quizzing each other on trivia, using their imagination for playground wand duels and working together with their ‘house’ to complete activities. My favorite activity was sorting the campers into houses on the first day of camp. Watching the campers wait with anticipation to see which house they would be sorted into and how they cheered for their housemates was truly magical!”

Ross Foster ’30 attended the camp as a rising fifth-grader. “The best part of the Harry Potter camp was making cool wizard arts and crafts, like a wand, and watching the movie on the last day,” he said.

“I think it’s important to know that our camp was attended by both children who were huge ‘Harry Potter’ fans who had read all the books and those who were new to the series and had not read a single book or watched any of the movies,” Zeblo added. “I think it was a fun experience for all. I heard from many of the families that the camp sparked a new excitement for reading the books together or sharing their camp activities with friends and neighbors.”

Creativity abounds at camps including Kristen McCarthy’s Fairy Garden Creations, Harry Potter Wizarding School, and Ravens Strings Summer Camp with instructors Anne Leyland, Pamela Kelly and Tasi Matthews.


Whatever the focus, Ravenscroft’s summer camps are more than just seven weeks out of the summer where parents drop off their children to play games and learn a new skill — they’re an extension of the principles faculty and staff seek to impart throughout the year.

“Ravenscroft Summer Programs strive to create an environment where each and every camper experiences a safe, fun and memorable time on our campus,” Ressner concluded. “Our priority is to promote and maintain a safe, positive environment that encourages self-confidence and personal development of children while taking part in all of our activities.”

Hear from four Ravens who attended Camp Ravens Nest this summer in this Voices video!


Above, clockwise from top left: Camp Ravens Nest brings some hard-shelled friends to the Lower School gym; Michael Renna ’30 enjoys a sweet treat he decorated at the Harry Potter Wizarding School; Kaia Petty ’29 assembles a hinged box in Danny Carlson’s IDE camp; Savannah Abraham ’34 paints an item for her fairy garden. 

Something for Every Raven

Summer at Ravenscroft isn’t just about summer school! Auxiliary Services offers a robust slate of summer programs that tap into young people’s passions. Here are just a few more of the camps offered in 2022.


Arts

  • Broadway Jr. (fourth through ninth grades)

  • Basic Design and Art Camp (first and second grades; third and fourth grades)

  • Ravens Piano Camp (first through 12th grades)


Athletics

  • Baseball - Hitting Camp (fifth through 12th grades)
  • Field Hockey Skills Camp (third through ninth grades)
  • Raven Swim Academy (PreK through fifth grade)

Enrichment

  • Cartooning (third through eighth grades)

  • Game Design (sixth through eighth grades)

  • Dark Room Photography (seventh through 10th grades)

 

Read more on our Summer Camps & Programs page!

At left, now-retired teacher and coach Jimmy Cox is pictured with the ninth-grade basketball team in this Corvus yearbook photo from 1976, the same year he took over the basketball skills camp; at right, longtime Athletic Director and varsity football coach Ned Gonet, shown with Brad Adams ’83 in the 1982 Corvus, expanded athletic camp programming after he came on in 1981.


It all started with a single camp…

Ravenscroft summer camps got their start in 1975 when two hugely popular former NC State All-Americans, Monte Towe and Lou Pucillo (father of Lynn ’81, Lou ’84 and Lauren ’89), hosted a basketball camp here. The next year, Ravenscroft Physical Education teacher and basketball coach Jimmy Cox came on board to run the camp.

Soon, Cox would be running the Ravenscroft Day Camp for kindergarteners through fifth-graders, which would continue under his leadership for almost 30 years. Some of the staff he hired to lead camps — including Bob Hale (known as “Nature Bob,” after the subject of his classes) and Mary Glenn Crumpler Coleman — became teachers at Ravenscroft.

“The day camp opened the door for students to come to campus and have an introduction to Ravenscroft,” Cox said, “and it opened the door for other summer programs at Ravenscroft, too.”

Indeed, when Athletic Director Ned Gonet was hired in 1981, he saw an opportunity to expand summer programs for young athletes and introduce Ravenscroft to even more families in the Raleigh community — a move intended to bolster admissions and, he hoped, involvement in athletics.

“At the time, there were no auxiliary services, and the school did not rent any of its facilities. Ravenscroft’s student body had a smaller population, and I thought it would be a good idea to start an athletic summer program and rent facilities to outside partners,” Gonet explained.

Bringing the basketball camp into the fold, he also introduced the Future Stars camp — a sports and recreation camp, now run by Assistant AD Jim Gibbons — and a Football Skills camp. Today, Ravenscroft’s athletic summer programs include 17 different options and remain extremely popular: in 2022 alone, there were more than 470 participants across a range of age groups.

Auxiliary Services continues to play an important role in introducing Ravenscroft to organizations and families across the Triangle through year-round and summer programming that generates non-tuition revenue for the institution — a critical element of the school’s long-term planning and vision.