How a Philosophy of Inclusion Has Made This CT Arts Camp a Safe Haven for Creatives
Every year, childhood seems to grow shorter and shorter, with opportunities to explore creative interests replaced by screens and scholastic concentrations. What happened to creative free time? Daydream time? Try something artistic and see if you like it time? While young children may still be afforded these valuable experiences, tweens and teens are increasingly disenfranchised from the very chances that could help them immensely in discovering who they are. This especially true for young creatives.
New England’s summer camp tradition has been pushing back, providing kids a place to be kids. But as summer camps have become more specialized, the creative camper who wants to discover their next artistic passion have been left on the outside looking in. At YPI, that can change. YPI is the exciting non-traditional arts summer camp for non-traditional tweens and teens—young creatives looking to find their passion and themselves in an inclusive environment. As their motto goes, YPI is not just a place; it’s a state of mind.
If this all sounds a bit vague, that’s sort of the point. YPI is the camp for the inquisitive, the dreamer, the curious, those who might not yet know how they fit into the world around them. It’s a place for young adults whose interests in the written, visual, and performance arts set them apart in their school system. Within YPI’s welcoming environment, the seasoned or brand new artist pursues their creative expression while meeting lifelong friends— the kind of friends who love them for who they are.
Housed in the gorgeous Suffield Academy in Suffield Connecticut, YPI has been offering creative campers this unique exploration of the arts for 40 years. This is not your typical arts camp; you don’t have to have a specific talent or ability to attend. Instead, over two glorious weeks, 50-75 tweens and teens 5th through 12th grade spend their days following whatever creative passion excites them while under the close mentorship of the camp’s creative professionals, many of whom attended YPI when they were teens.
When they’re not honing their artistic skills, YPI campers are enjoying Suffield Academy’s state-of-the-art facilities, playing outdoor games or attending a mini-workshop on a variety of creative endeavors of the young person’s choosing.
The YPI experience changes lives.
At YPI, campers find a sense of belonging—a place where their unique talents and creative intuitions make them part of a larger community. It’s a feeling that sticks with YPI alumni for the rest of their lives.
“It’s taken me 15 years since leaving YPI to even realize that, at the time, love was what I needed,” recalls YPI alum Bob Weisz, “and that love is what YPI gave me. It was a true love, one that families ought to provide one another. I write this with tears in my eyes: YPI very well might have been my first family.”
YPI Alumna Julie Maynard agrees, saying, “Being at an arts camp where it’s okay to miss a note or drop a line made me realize that people will still be behind me when I am on stage and in my life. I have gotten the confidence to step up for what I believe in. I am now not as afraid to say what I think. Without this gift of love, confidence, and fearlessness, I would not be where I am today.”
A Day in the Life at YPI
What’s it like to be a camper at YPI? Because of the way the camp is structured—designed specifically to encourage whatever creative passion the camper is looking for, whether it be with a camera, a guitar, a pen or a paintbrush—YPI prides itself on offering possibility. A day in the life at YPI reflects this.
Every day campers immerse themselves in their chosen classes which are interspersed with structured recreation, evening age-appropriate activities, and plenty of free time to spend with new friends. State-of-the-art facilities offer campers the opportunity to take deep dives in photography, multimedia, filmmaking, songwriting, dance, musical theater, poetry or short story writing, all taught by creative professionals who are highly trained in guiding young people’s passions. These Master Teachers mentor campers, share feedback and insight using their vast expertise, and provide endless encouragement, fostering a safe environment for young people to push their boundaries.
Structured recreation, or “rec” time, includes capture the flag, theater games, jewelry making, face painting, soccer, asteroids, ultimate frisbee, and mini-workshops on dance, music, acting, and writing. It’s a chance for campers to explore a new interest or a new friendship. Evening Activities are often campers’ highlight of the day. Dance Parties, Open Mics, and the truly zany Hunt O’ Fun culminate in a week-ending event called We Jazz, where campers are given time to show off all they’ve accomplished over the week. Each day at YPI presents campers with a new opportunity to learn about their art and themselves, but there’s no pressure in presenting a final product at the end of the week.
Check out an in-depth breakdown of the daily schedule.
The YPI Difference
YPI is a different kind of arts camp, one that’s just as much about helping young creatives live their best life as it is about the artistic instruction itself. Director Jeff Ostroff is passionate about personal growth and human connection, encouraging campers to not only grow as artists, but as people. He often shares several philosophies during YPI to help campers be their true selves. These lessons are instilled in the campers from day one.
The first one is based on Stephen Covey’s 8th Habit, which encourages campers “to find their voice in order to help inspire others to find theirs.” This philosophy is present every summer, and many Master Teachers use their own passions and careers as an example to campers of what can happen when you step in and live with the power of your own voice.
The second one is the “Fish Philosophy.” Based on Pike’s Peak fish market in Seattle, which encourages their staff to be present—I’m here with you now!—the Fish Philosophy encourages campers to choose their attitude, make someone’s day, and enjoy what they have.
The third philosophy is the Rules for Being Human, a set of ideas by Cherie Carter-Scott that inspires people to love the body and mind they were given and to see life as a journey where mistakes are lessons that lead to better outcomes.
Finally, the fourth philosophy Jeff shares is in the messages of Don Miguel Ruiz in his book The Four Agreements: be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best.
These philosophies are crucial to YPI’s continued success and are part of why campers return year after year. As YPIers go through the challenges of young adulthood, the valuable philosophical lessons of YPI stick with them. The teenage years can be turbulent times for young creatives searching for their identity. YPI tells them it’s okay to not have all the answers right away and to enjoy the journey. It’s about shifting perspectives to learn to love yourself. There’s no rain at YPI, only liquid sunshine.
If your creative tween or teen wants to experience a truly transformative summer, YPI is the place. The camp’s combination of supportive artistic instruction, first-class facilities, inclusive activities, and empowering philosophy are found nowhere else.
“What really makes YPI special,” reflects YPI’s Director, Jeff, “is the community that we create. Kids from all over the country—and even the world—getting together, supporting each other in a very safe environment. They feel they can do their works-in-progress, that they can make mistakes and, ultimately, be supported and get better.”
That’s the YPI difference. Learn more about giving your child the summer of a lifetime at ypicamp.org.
YPI reminds parents the camp has stringent COVID protocols in place, including following all state guidelines and 24/7 medical attention provided by their onsite nursing staff. At YPI, health and safety remain a priority, as it has for the last 40 years.