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The Fine Print

NBTSC is not an ordinary youth camp. Every once in a while we have a misunderstanding with a parent who expected something different, or a camper arrives with needs we’re not staffed to support. To ensure that we’re all happily working together, we need you to look over the following expectations and details before signing up.  (We address most of this page to parents. But we also need campers to be on board. You’ll see that they should read a few sections themselves.)

If you’d like to get a deeper feel for NBTSC culture, also see these optional items:

  • NBTSC Camper and Parent Handbook 2023
    • The 2024 edition will be shared with all campers who register this year
  • NBTSC Camper Handbook Extras 2024 ~ we’ve shortened the main handbook; these are the outtakes. People who like details or have unanswered questions should have a look at this document.
  • Our NBTSC blog. Most posts are written during camp (“a day in the life”) by a variety of campers and staff. We request authenticity and basically don’t censor unless another individual’s privacy is at stake.
  • Not Back to School Camp: A Glance Within ~ although this 15-minute film was made back in 2009 (by alum Allen Ellis), it still feels pretty representative of current-era NBTSC. If you’re curious about Bonding Night, for example–it’s described below on this page–the film shows what it’s like.
  • All_About_NBTSC (adapted from our former “long brochure”)
  • and our photo albums!

Of course, contact us if you have questions or concerns you’d like to discuss before registering (or any other time).

Is NBTSC compatible with your child’s needs?

We’ve occasionally found ourselves trying to support someone we aren’t adequately staffed to support – most often a person with mental health needs, but occasionally other situations too. Please carefully read the information below and then consider whether NBTSC will be a good fit for your child this year. 

In the three domains described below, there are grey areas. The truth is that we have hosted many campers who didn’t precisely fit these standards, and for the most part they were fine. (Or their parents even told us, “NBTSC is the best thing that ever happened to our little Johnny!”) And for the most part, we’ve felt great about having these individuals with us–often, their presence has ultimately worked out positively for everyone involved–the camper, our staff, and the rest of the camp community who got to experience the joy of getting to know the individual. 

But, in a few of these “fine” cases, our staff has been extremely overextended– “exhausted” is an understatement –and they’ve also neglected other campers’ needs in order to get to that fine. NBTSC must be sustainable for everyone, including our staff. 

We welcome campers to register this year if you (and they) sincerely believe the three statements below are currently true. If you have any doubt, please discuss thoroughly with your child. If you have any remaining doubts after that discussion, it’s probably best to talk with us before registering. That said, the registration process itself includes another layer of screening: 

Every year, every camper and their parent(s) must respond to a set of Camper Application questions. As soon as you submit your initial registration and pay your deposit, you’ll see the application at the top of your “health & pre-camp info” section of your online account. (You’ll also see a copy of this year’s Camper and Parent Handbook available for download. Among many other things, the handbook includes more context and guidance re the application process.) The Camper Application questions must be completed right away–within one week at the most. It’s hard for us to move forward on camp preparation when we’re waiting on incomplete applications. And it can be hard on camp families, too:

  • We need a complete application before we can finalize your registration and get you in the queue for cabin requests and any other preferences such as superhero (chore) teams. 
  • To qualify for the early registration discount, you must not only register by March 31 but must also complete the application questions by March 31. (Except that if you register between March 25 and March 31, you can still have one full week to complete the application, if needed.) 
  • Applying for a worktrade? We can’t grant worktrades to individuals whose camper applications aren’t complete. 

When responding, of course it’s essential that you and your child answer honestly and thoroughly. And then if we have questions or concerns, we’ll reach out. If we’re not confident that NBTSC is likely to be a good match for your child, we may not be able to host them this year. In some cases, though, if you are willing to put a really solid backup plan in place–that is, a concrete plan for how your child could safely and promptly depart if needed–we might be happy to give it a try. 

1. Their mental health is currently stable, and NBTSC is compatible with their mental health needs.

If your child has a serious mental health issue that is likely to need attention during camp, or that frequently needs professional attention, we are not staffed to support them. We are not able to offer mental health services as part of our program. And we do not have staff available to routinely support campers who have frequent panic attacks or other frequent, acute mental health needs.

To put this in perspective: we are quite accustomed to hosting campers who have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and/or sometimes other mental health conditions. Having a diagnosis is not in itself a deal breaker. We’re more interested in the current level of severity; whether NBTSC is likely to be helpful or harmful at this time for the person; and whether our staff can realistically handle their needs. Of course, NBTSC is a unique environment and it’s impossible to predict how an individual and NBTSC will interact, especially if they’re new to our community. We do find that having a solid backup plan in place can alleviate anxiety for everyone–if things don’t work out, then as long as the camper can promptly and safely depart, the experience can still potentially be an overall success; a glass half full rather than half empty.

Since NBTSC is a largely outdoor program, and buildings and facilities tend toward the rustic, we are not always a good choice for people with serious anxieties about insects, dark nights, or other realities of the outdoors.

2. They are able to take care of themselves and respect others.

Parents, please ask your child to read the following section (and read it yourself too, thanks).

3. Their physical needs are compatible with our program.

If you feel at all uncertain about any of the above areas, or if your child is a new or a younger camper (especially if they’ve never been away from home or family for a week), you need a departure plan.

You and your child need to agree that if they find themselves chronically overwhelmed or extremely homesick and want to leave camp, you will support them in doing so. It may be helpful to agree ahead of time that they’ll commit to at least two or three nights even if they’re uncomfortable, but beyond that if they ultimately don’t want to be there, NBTSC policy is that campers should be able to make that decision for themselves. (When staff are made aware of homesickness, anxiety, etc., there’s a lot we can do to offer support. And, typically, if a camper who is struggling sticks it out for a couple nights, they end up feeling more comfortable and often decide to remain at camp for the duration – and then later they’re typically very glad they stayed. So, we’re usually okay with families making firm agreements about the first 2 or 3 nights. But occasionally a camper is adamant about leaving, and we all need to be on the same page about honoring their choice.)

Also, if your child has a mental or physical health condition that could make it challenging for them to be at camp (or for our staff to support them), then we’ll ask you to submit a detailed action plan to be followed in case your camper needs to depart. For some campers, it’s essential to have this kind of concrete backup plan in place so that if needed, they can leave promptly, safely, without unnecessary stress or confusion, and of course without any blaming or shaming. Depending on the camper’s individual needs, this might mean that a parent is on standby and can pick up the camper on site within a few hours, or that a relative or friend can meet the camper in a nearby town — we will consider together with you what makes sense in your specific situation.

Is NBTSC a good fit for your child?

Sometimes, even when an individual doesn’t have needs that we’re not able to meet, NBTSC just may not be the perfect fit.

NBTSC may not be a good choice for…

What parents should know about NBTSC

The vast majority of feedback we get from parents is glowingly positive, and we do our work in the hope that it contributes to the health and happiness not only of our campers, but also of their relationships with the families that they return to. But some of the things we do may not be consistent with what you want for your family. We have had an occasional parent upset to find out later that their kid participated in certain discussions or activities, so here are a few things to know:

photo by Joe Denardo, 1998

Thank you for reading the fine print!