Our Youth

Let Them Speak: “Day Camp vs. Sleep-Away Camp: Which Is Better?


By Kene Nzelu

For years I’ve been going to summer camps in New York City, usually day camps. But this summer, I tried something different: I went to sleepaway camp in Upstate New York.

There are a few differences between sleep-away camp and day camp. Day camps are summer camps that you go to during the day and then go back home afterwards. They usually tend to be less expensive than sleep-away camps. Whereas with sleep-away camps, you pick how long you want to attend the camp, and you spend your whole time there, days and nights.

Fun Times at Day Camps

(Photos: Kene Nzelu)

Day camps that I attended include Francis Grace Summer Camp, Queens College Summer Camp, and YMCA Teen Camp.

I’m very used to day camps. I liked doing fun activities, meeting new people and then going back home at the end of the day.

At Francis Grace Summer Camp, I got to take care of little kids, but also do activities with kids around my age. I also had time to do my summer assignments there, so I finished them usually during the first week of camp. In addition, I got to go on different trips.

At Queens College Summer Camp, I actually got to choose what programs and activities I wanted to do. I was put in a group consisting of two smaller combined groups that had my interests. I chose to do dance, step, cheer, and soccer and it was really nice to get instruction for those activities at camp since I don’t get instruction in them at any other time of the year.

Along with those activities, I got to choose classes that I wanted to take that covered things from sewing to baking.

I went to YMCA Teen Camp two summers ago and I was surrounded with kids my age. We went on trips every Thursday that varied from a mall to Ellis Island. We also did activities like arts and crafts as a group in an RV that was just for us, so that was cool.

We would be provided with lunch at all of my day camps, and there were always a variety of options for food.

Testing the Sleep-Away Camp

I attended Camp Hilltop this summer. I got to choose the amount of time to stay there according to sessions.

It was definitely a new experience going to sleep-away camp. Camp Hilltop is located in an area that has a lot of free land. I remember when my mom drove me to camp. We were kind of shocked to go from a busy place with a lot of buildings to a place that was more quiet and had houses that were really far from each other.

Sleep-away camp was fun. I liked the intensives (activities you choose to focus on) that I got to do there. My intensives included contemporary dance, street dance, singing/songwriting, outdoor laser tag, guitar and playing the drums.

At the end of my singing/songwriting intensive and my contemporary dance intensive, I performed with the other kids in the dining hall. That felt really good.

It was a really big campground and they had nice facilities like a pool and a dance studio. They also had a lake, a bungee tramp, a rock climbing tower, go-karts and more.

We had a busy schedule so it never really got boring there, and the food was really delicious! Some of the dishes included French toast and sausage for breakfast, corn dogs for lunch, and stir fry rice for dinner.

Every Wednesday, we had an outdoor barbecue with our cabin where we ate hamburgers and hot dogs. Even though I enjoyed Camp Hilltop, I started to get homesick, so I left a little early.

The Winner Is

So after attending both types of summer camps, I prefer day camp because I like that you can get the summer camp experience, but also be able to go home every night.

Also, depending on the camp you go to, you may be able to do almost every type of activity you can do at sleep-away camp. It felt nice when I came back from camp and was able to go back home to my parents and my life as usual. But everyone is different.

You may like sleep-away camp better than day camp. Experts say that you can decide what camp you think will be better for you based on your behavior, personality and interests.

When deciding between either type of camps, make sure you know all about them first. Whatever your choice is, make sure you are comfortable with it and have fun!

Kene Nzelu is a sophomore at Xaverian H.S., Bay Ridge.