For more than 28 years, Bruce Irons Camp Fund (BICF) has worked to address the critical issue that all children in our community, regardless of means, deserve access to enriching out-of-school experiences and opportunities that are directly related to academic and lifelong success. Students are selected the summer before their 5th grade year and remain in our program for five consecutive years. Once admitted into our program, students attend 3 consecutive summers of 2- to 3- week nature camp in the NC Mountains, followed by 2 consecutive summers of academic camp on a college campus.
The experiences provided by BICF fall into three categories: overnight summer camp, supporting enrichment programs throughout the year, and mentoring. Our year-round enrichment programs are designed to complement the summer camp experience and address particular issues identified in parent and camper surveys. We provide a fall nature hike, community service opportunities, a half-day computer camp at Microsoft’s local campus, monthly swimming lessons, a camper outfitting day, a camp kick-off and back-to-school party, and other programs. We outfit our students for camp, provide school supplies, and send them books both at the holidays and summertime, to ensure they have access to reading materials during academic breaks.
Each BICF student is assigned a dedicated mentor who helps prepare them for camp, partners with the student/their family throughout the year, and provides transportation to and from camp and other BICF enrichment programs. Mentors develop lasting relationships with their campers and families and provide campers with opportunities for extracurricular learning activities as well as exposure to new experiences, environments, and increased social capital.
The BICF experience provides our students with access to expanded social networks, teaches them new skills, encourages their independence, and strengthens their leadership skills. Residential summer camp, both in the NC mountains and on the UNCG campus, expands their horizons beyond their own inner-city neighborhoods and high-poverty schools by integrating them into a residential environment with people from completely different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. BICF’s year-round programs expose students to places as inspiring and different to them as the theatre, art museum, nature preserve, and the local Microsoft campus. Our students would likely not otherwise accumulate these tangible opportunities, over the 5 years they spend in our program. We know these experiences better prepare our students for success in school and in life and can provide a pathway towards greater achievement. They also help avoid stagnation in learning during out-of-school time, which leads to our long-term desired result of academic success.