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Tony Mayfield, Director of Culver Summer Schools and Camps, shared a wealth of information on this year's program -- as well as some tidbits on upcoming items of interest -- last week with members of Culver's Kiwanis Club, who dined at the school's Lay Dining Center for their weekly meeting.
Mayfield, a graduate of Culver Military Academy who spent ten years at the school as history instructor before taking on several summer-related positions including a stint as Woodcraft Camp director, said so far this has "been a great year" for the summer program.
Culver Summer Schools, which includes the Woodcraft Camp for younger students and Upper Camp for older, this year has 1,392 campers from 40 states, Puerto Rico, and 41 foreign countries, said Mayfield. He added this year's campers include "more kids from Indiana than from Mexico," and so saw a decrease in Spanish-speaking students, but had a greater number from China, Russia, and "a wide variety of places."
"Culver obviously has a unique and outstanding voice that reaches across the world," he noted. "I believe we do a good job of bringing some of the best kids from around the world."
This summer was also the second for the Junior Woodcraft program, a five-day camp aimed at students aged 7 to 9 which boasted 150 youngsters this time out. Following the six-week, regular summer school session, which ends in early August, the school will host two sessions of another fairly recent addition (or to be exact, a return to a long-defunct offering), its family camp, now in its third summer. The first session, said Mayfield, is already sold out and the second halfway full. This year the camp will bring in wounded veterans' families, he noted, which is paid for by members of Culver's board of directors.
The Camps' fabled Naval School band is also thriving, according to Mayfield. He said the school has frequented a number of music conferences across the nation to recruit towards the band, which this summer has 57 members. The band's prowess was on display last weekend for the annual Moonlight Serenade concert about the RH Ledbetter schooner; the public is also welcome to listen in at 4 p.m. most Sundays during the summer for a performance by the band and its jazz group in the Legion Memorial Building's Heritage Room on the Academies campus.
This summer the Troop and Equestriennes' horsemanship programs will also benefit from the presence of world-class equestrian rough rider and performer Ricky Suarez, Mayfield said, who is working with the students, staff, and horses to help them improve their riding.
Joe Hanko, a US certified sailing instructor is also working with the school's sailing fleet and boat shop "to make sure we stay on top it," Mayfield added. Culver has about 250 boats ranging in size and type, including kayaks, Sunfish sailboats, and others. Mayfield said the school is looking at some future pier development, and has been impeded this year in pier placement by high water.
Work is slated to begin this fall on a "beautiful new crew boat house and crew piers" at the Academies, he said, with the hopes of closing the building in before this winter. The new structure will be entirely dedicated to the school's crew and rowing program and will include classrooms and practice pools, though more storage space may be needed to accommodate all of the boats used in the program.
2012 will mark the centennial year of Culver's famous Woodcraft program, which began in 1912 under the direction of American Boy Scouting pioneer Daniel Carter Beard. Woodcraft staff member Dick Zimmerman, now in his 60th summer at Culver, is working on a historical writing for the occasion, said Mayfield, who noted Zimmerman wrote a similar publication for the 75th anniversary in 1987.
Other recent changes include the shift to 8 p.m. of the popular Summer School parades. The hour is later than in years past to avoid the effects of the heat on students, a move which Mayfield said has "paid off. We haven't had (heat-related health problems) as we did before. I know it's a hardship for parents (to attend at that hour), but we have to do what we think is best for the students."
Added this summer is the requirement that students in the sailing programs wear helmets, something Mayfield said was "a tough call to a certain degree, but we've had relatively few issues with the kids. The health center tells me we've had fewer concussions this year, and that was the reason in the first place. It's gone much better than I honestly thought it would."
The Summer Schools are also looking at bringing tactical officers back to the Upper Camp program this year, Mayfield explained.
"The idea was not to increase the military (aspect of the program), but to simply do a better job with the military," he said.
The cherished tradition of the Woodcraft Campâ€™s weekly Council Fire performances continues as well, he noted, each Saturday evening at 9 p.m. in the Bird Sanctuary. He noted parking is available at the school's tennis facilities, which may be more convenient for families.
Summer staffing for the various programs runs around 395 people, said Mayfield. In answer to an audience query, he noted tuition totals around $6,000 for the summer, per student.
"We're still a bargain," he said. "There are a lot of great camps out there, but nothing like Culver. And they're charging $1,500 to $2,000 for just a week or so (as opposed to Culver's six weeks)."
Scholarships are also available, with details at hand via the school's website at www.culver.org.