Beyond the Comfort Zone


Leap over May and summer is here! It’s a thought that’s likely to trigger a mixture of cheers and groans for parents. Life moves especially fast for families with teenagers, and summer is a great time to slow down— but not too much. Teens land in that in-between zone: not ready for most “real” jobs, but too old to play all day.

Summer camp to the rescue! Now is the time to register for most programs. You’ll find no shortage of options in Sacramento, but if your kid has participated in volleyball or robotics camp year after year, maybe it’s time—for both of you—to step beyond the comfort zone. Go somewhere new. Learn something new. Change the “I’m bored” script.

Parent Linda Uphoff sent three kids to SuperCamp on the Stanford University campus and is thrilled with the experience. “The camp isn’t just academic, but also social,” says Uphoff. “They learn self-confidence and what’s important out of life. It’s really a unique experience for kids, and they form strong relationships with other kids.”

The four camps listed below might expose a new passion for the outdoors, performing, leadership or a call to action. Long-distance camps require a mental and financial commitment for parents but might just be life-changing for kids.


Your teen can summit a mountain, hike along alpine lakes, rivers, waterfalls and meadows, and relate with other teens on a 13-day, 60–75 mile backpacking trip in the heart of Yosemite National Park. Lasting Adventures’ experienced leaders trek teens through the backcountry on some of the most famous trails as well as some lesser-known areas with spectacular vistas, fun watering holes and beautiful sunsets.

New and experienced hikers grasp outdoor skills and create unforgettable memories as they connect with nature. Kids bond over an evening campfire and awaken to granite walls, arrive at the rim of Yosemite Valley across from Half Dome or camp alongside a lake at Ten Lakes basin, which has an elevation of approximately 9,000 feet. Yesterday’s 6-mile downhill day might be countered by today’s 3,500-foot ascent over 10 miles, celebrated with ice cream and real toilets at the finish! Or take a “zero” day (no mileage with packs) to the geographical center of Yosemite for an afternoon of fishing and relaxing.

Morning circle time begins with stretches, map review and goal setting. The daily routine includes playing games, sharing highlights, discussing itineraries and developing problem-solving skills and environmental stewardship.​

Backpacking-friendly foods and freeze-dried breakfasts and dinners are prepared together… eggs and bacon, anyone? Lunches consist mainly of trail food. And, yes, bears are a thing, as are deer, squirrels and other critters, but leaders are skilled in handling encounters, and kids learn to respect the animals. The average pack weighs 25–40 pounds, sans tents—teens love to sleep under the stars.

Survival in the natural environment fosters healthy attitudes for a successful life. Self-worth, self-confidence and self-esteem climb as basic challenges are overcome: “Should I scale that wall? Leap across to that rock?”

P.S. Adults can get their adventure on, too, with Lasting Adventures.

13-Day High-Country Youth Program: Yosemite National Park; equipment required; multiple camp options available; cost $1,750; ages 13–18; (800) 513-8651;

Lasting Adventures Trip
Enjoying the views during a Lasting Adventures trip


Calling all performing artists! Passionate content creators are invited to join Relativity Education Workshops’ summer camp to participate in the “real deal” on a Hollywood studio lot. Filmmaking, acting, commercial dancing and musical-theater-performing students produce tangible results under the guidance of recognized Hollywood experts with a passion for teaching and a goal of ushering in the next Hollywood generation.

Three weeks of workshops that happen Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.—room and board available—are taught by working professionals on movie and television sets and in a dedicated dance studio. (One dance instructor performs with Lady Gaga and appeared in the Super Bowl halftime show. As for location, “The Jungle Book” was recently shot on the lot, as were “Mad Men,” “The League” and many more television shows.)

In addition to the high-caliber location and instructors, director of workshops Emma Greer believes the course work and collaboration are a huge factor in Relativity’s success. “Students leave the program professionally and technically empowered to be able to walk onto a set with a professional understanding,” says Greer.

Interested in film? The project-based learning environment unleashes the imagination in classes, using expert equipment, cameras and sets. Study your craft, overcome fear and obstacles, embrace the digital revolution and produce a film. Is the next George Lucas in the house?

Relativity Education Workshops maintains relationships with multiple housing facilities in Los Angeles, all near the main campus at Los Angeles Center Studios. Single-, double- and triple-occupancy rooms are available, all a short walk or shuttle ride away from the studios. Breakfast and beverages are included each day; lunch and dinner meal plans are available for a price.

At the end of the “workday,” teenagers can be found collaborating with roommates on projects, inspiring one another and building lasting friendships. During free time, students hang out with a 24/7 counselor who arranges simple weeknight activities (bowling, going to Target) and weekend excursions to Disneyland, the Griffith Observatory, a Dodgers game and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Relativity Education Workshops’ Los Angeles Summer Camp: Downtown Los Angeles; two summer sessions available; personal video introduction required; cost $3,795; ages 13–17; (800) 985-9071;


Academic confidence, personal success, leadership, self-empowerment, character development and fun comprise the agenda at SuperCamp, a social, leadership and academic skills program located on the Stanford University campus. Students examine their own limiting beliefs and focus on replacing old habits with new truths by exploring communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and character. Using their newfound knowledge, students define what’s really important and how to incorporate it into better living.

Each student’s experience is different, but eight keys of excellence provide the takeaway for all students, with character building as the cornerstone. If the following keys—identified by SuperCamp—resonate with your family, you’ve found the right camp: integrity, failure leads to success, speak with good purpose, this is it!, commitment, ownership, flexibility and balance.

What does the camp experience look like? After introductions come ice-breaker activities. Students begin to build team spirit the next day, expanding their comfort zones. Day three focuses on communication strategies, and day four discusses how failure leads to success. On each subsequent day, the well-oiled learning system continues to empower students. Sports, games, journaling and social time fill the itinerary as well.

The 4-to-1 student-to-staff ratio ensures focused attention on each teen. Facilitators spend more than 150 hours training in the proprietary learning system and undergo an intense selection process for participation on the SuperCamp team. Many have master’s degrees, and all are passionate about building students’ character.

As for Linda Uphoff’s aforementioned three kids, they love SuperCamp and unequivocally asked to return.

Senior Forum 10-Day Program: Palo Alto; multiple camp options available, including international venues; cost $3,695; ages ninth–12th grade; (800) 228- 5327;


Ready to change the world? A week at YEA (rhymes with “hey”) inspires kids to make a difference. Founded by a longtime activist and educator, YEA recognizes that young people desire to be heard yet often don’t know where to begin. Enter YEA Camp, a fun, supportive empowerment program designed to launch kids beyond their comfort zone in a “progressive” environment.

Music and art is on the docket, as are swimming, playing games and making friends, but fun isn’t the point of the camp. Teenagers learn how to have a voice for change. According to its website, “YEA Camp defines activism inclusively as ‘taking intentional action to help others.’” Unlike a traditional school format of instructors imparting views or knowledge, dialogue, questions and critical thinking are encouraged. Not everyone agrees on every subject, but disagreements are handled with respect, using the camp Honor Code.

After settling in, students explore their environment and learn about past movements and gain an understanding of current social issues. Each day brings new lessons, such as strengthening communication skills, analyzing how to make a difference using available tools and organizations, and ways to become involved.

Vegan food makes up the menu, a priority for a camp dedicated to caring about social justice and choosing to live in a more sustainable world. The healthy, kid-friendly meals are similar to typical home-cooked food—pancakes for breakfast, burritos for lunch, pasta for dinner and brownies for dessert, for example.

Campers return to regular life with new skills and an action plan for how to make an impact. One teenage girl started an Embody Love Club to help girls feel confident in their bodies. Another focused on environmental causes. A third gave talks about bullying at school, and an animal activist gathered signatures for a statewide ballot initiative.

Camp Wrightwood: Angeles National Forest; Aug. 6–13; additional camps in Massachusetts and New York; cost: $1,500; ages 12–17; (415) 710-7351;