Herricks teens found virtual summer camp amid pandemic

Elliot Weld
From left to right, Jacqueline Manetta, Namit Kapoor, Akshal Shah and Naman Kapoor, founders of Herricks Camp Connected. (Photo courtesy of Namit Kapoor)

Four Herricks High School students took the struggle of staying home to heart earlier this summer. With parents looking for a way to entertain their children and high schoolers looking for ways to stay connected Namit Kapoor, Naman Kapoor, Jacqueline Manetta and Akshal Shah founded a virtual summer camp, Herricks Camp Connected.

One hundred thirty-one of their peers signed up to be volunteer “counselors” at the camp and 142 younger children grades K-5 attended the virtual events in groups broken down by age.

Counselors and students met through Zoom each day from 11 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. and broke the sessions down into sections such as academics, athletics, games, music and art. For athletics, which Namit Kapoor said was phased out eventually because it was not one of the more popular categories, participants would play games such as “horse,” and bring their Zoom device outside to a basketball hoop to play a round of the game.

Other activities included things like the online trivia game Kahoot, which can be played by dozens of people at a time through a mobile app, and games of counselor-organized “jeopardy.”

Namit Kapoor said an assistant principal at Herricks High School told him parents had sent emails praising the camp. During the last week, the organizers sent out a feedback form to parents and received mostly positive feedback.

“A lot of people said ‘this was a great way for me to get away from my child for a bit’ because you’re at home surrounded by the same people all the time, it’s a good way for parents to de-stress and for kids to be entertained for a bit,” Shah said.

The parents and younger children weren’t the only ones benefiting though. Naman Kapoor said he gained leadership skills from his time organizing the camp. Shah said for him, the gains were in time management and communicational skills.

Shah said that the work to organize the camp was considerable, but in the end was worth the trouble.

“I would open my camera every morning to turn on all the Zoom classes and would see the smiling faces on all these little kids, they were all so cute and they’re all so excited to be there and see their friends after such a long time and just sensing their happiness through the screens made everything worth it,” Shah said.

Namit Kapoor said the highlights of his summers in the past have been attending summer camps and being able to give some semblance of that experience to other children was rewarding.

On top of that, it was a relief for the high schoolers to have a place to interact after the pandemic shut down schools and athletics in March.

“Kids from our high school could just talk to each other and teach together after not communicating in such a long time and now everyone can finally have a place to spend time together and have fun,” Naman Kapoor said.


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Elliot Weld

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