Young women’s empowerment camp coming to Pickens County;
Young men's camp held in backcountry
Camp Wisdom mixes fun with self-growth for kids, discussing questions like what makes a hero with young men and addressing self-image issues with the separate girls camp.
With 26 years working with teens and 14 years leading camps for young people, Ellijay resident Jay Zipperman believes now more than ever, kids need an opportunity to be in nature to grow, gain confidence and detox from the digital world.
Zipperman’s Mountain Wisdom Camp offers a Young Mens’ Ultimate Adventure, July 10-15, on Tray Mountain, near Hiawasee for boys 12-17. And a Discover You, Young Women’s Empowerment Journey, July 18-23, for ages 12-17. This year the young women’s camp will be at 12-Stone Farm in Talking Rock.
Zipperman said for security he feels comfortable hosting the men’s camp in a backcountry setting, but prefers for the girls’ camp (which is staffed with female leaders and mentors) to be in a private setting, like 12-Stone Farm.
The emphasis on both camps is building self-confidence through nature and activities. Zipperman has developed an approach over 14 years that he described as “good, all-around experience.” There is a little bit of bushcraft (wilderness survival skills), some outdoor education, a little leadership training, some competitive events and some team building.
In addition to daily lessons in the woods, the camps also touch some deeper issues. For the boys, much of the discussion and curriculum center on topics such as honor and integrity.
“We ask the young men ‘What is a hero?’” he said. Often that definition changes during the week.
For the girls’ camp, “it’s more about self-image - counteracting television and commercials and the images the girls are presented. We want them to feel better about themselves whoever they are.”
Zipperman has experience with young people being involved in the Gilmer County community for the past 20 years, including work with Gilmer Family Connections and providing a program for the past four years at Gilmer Boys and Girls Club.
“This is the time where young people move from adolescents into young adulthood,” he said. “This is like a rite of passage. We help young people move intentionally into a young adult. We use nature and we have mentors, counselors and staff, challenging outdoor activities. Through the challenges and different processes, there is self-discovery.”
Zipperman said for many kids spending time secluded in nature is an opportunity to have a weeklong “digital detox.” The campers get so caught up in the woods and with the activities there is little complaining after the first day about missing their cell phones.
Unlike a decade ago, kids don’t have the same opportunities to explore in the woods. For many parents, camping is a thing of the past for any number of reasons – finances, lack of access to wooded areas, parents who simply don’t know the outdoor skills or lack the equipment to get started.
“I started the program 14 years ago and now there are so many more serious issues with young people,” he said. “Not just the nature deficit disorder, but young people are generally not getting out and moving around enough, much less out in nature.
Zipperman’s camps are for the whole community. They aren’t boot camps and are not designated therapeutic camps (though they are very therapeutic Zipperman says).
We have the whole gamut of kids, he said. And they offer scholarships for anyone who can’t afford the $550 for the week.
“I want parents to call and ask what we can work out,” he said. “We want it available for those that would never go to a camp.”