COVID-19 Cancellations, Student-Led Solutions: Civics Unplugged Summer Camp

Civics Unplugged is a CivXNow Coalition member, committed to empowering the leaders of Generation Z to build the future of American democracy.

A few months ago, I would have done anything to fast forward to this summer. I spent months preparing for competitions and applying to various camps. In total, I had 7 trips planned, all across the continent. I was going to meet new people, experience new things, and learn so much. This was supposed to be the summer of my life. That is until Covid-19 began to invade and wreak havoc on our lives.

Of course, I was not the only one whose big summer plans were disrupted. Thousands of students from across the nation had poured their hearts and souls into important projects, jobs, competitions, and internships that now, will never happen. Now, they are left with nothing to do.

I’m currently participating in the Civics Unplugged Fellowship program, and in March, I shared my concern about the mass cancellation of summer plans in the Fellowship Slack workspace. Immediately, two of the Fellows, Maryam and Noor, who are also juniors in high school, volunteered to brainstorm how to address this issue with me.

With the support of the Civics Unplugged team, Maryam, Noor, and I set out to solve this problem. In our first brainstorm session, we realized that the program design of the CU Fellowship could easily be adapted to create an enriching virtual “summer camp” for high schoolers. And so, we integrated into what would become “CU Summer Camp” what we thought worked best from the Fellowship, including small group discussions, weekly cohort-wide lessons, “Leadership Blueprint” exercises, and Unplugged Conversations (fireside chats) with real-life civic superheroes.

As inspired as we were by the design of the CU Fellowship, we incorporated many ideas of our own. For instance, we developed the concept of Try-It-Out Tuesdays, where all the campers try out a new skill for the day, like coding. We also have Saturday Hangouts, where everyone takes part in a fun activity to just have fun, like a movie night. We also decided that CU Fellows should be the facilitators of the small groups, not college kids or older, given that CU Fellows have already experienced months of virtual community building and are ready to step up as leaders!

The part about Summer Camp that excites me most is that campers will design their own self-directed “Growth Journey” to spark creative, intellectual, and physical/mental growth over the course of the 9-week camp. “Self-directed” matters because we want our campers to be able to learn how they best learn and grow how they want to grow. By having each Camper tailor their Growth Journey to their specific needs, Campers are able to explore and develop in subjects of their choosing in a way that makes the most sense to them. This provides Campers with a unique learning opportunity, as many do not have the opportunity to pursue self-directed learning in traditional education settings.

A Growth Journey consists of four sub-journeys: a creative sub-journey, an intellectual sub-journey, a wellness sub-journey, and a self-discovery sub-journey. Each of these sub-journeys ends with a self-defined Capstone project to be completed at the end of Camp that shows how much the Camper developed over the course of the summer!

For instance, my creative capstone is to be able to knit hats, socks, and blankets by the end of the program, my intellectual capstone is to be able to write daily journals in Spanish without a translator, my wellness capstone is being able to run a 5k in 26 minutes, and my self-discovery capstone is to draft a 10-year vision for my future.

There’s more to be said, but to put it simply: if you are a civic-minded high schooler who wants to grow a lot, learn a lot, meet a lot of cool people from all over the country this summer, apply at Or if you know one, you can nominate them for the program here! The application is due May 10th.

And if you have any questions, email us at See you at Camp!

This blog post was written by Madison Adams, a high school junior from Verdigris, Oklahoma. Madison is a Civics Unplugged Fellow.

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The views expressed in this blog reflect the views of the author alone and do not reflect the views of the CivXNow Coalition or iCivics. CivXNow and iCivics do not endorse, verify, or represent the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of any opinion, statement, recommendation or other information written by a third party and published on the CivXNow blog.

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