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4-H Camp is a positive and lasting experience for youth

The following is the fourth in a series of Odessa File columns from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schuyler County relating to ongoing CCE educational activities and offerings.

By Mel Schroeder
CCE Schuyler

Hidden Valley 4-H Camp is a co-ed day and residential camp situated in beautiful Watkins Glen State Park. We have been in operation since 1945.

Hidden Valley 4-H camp is part of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schuyler County and the yearly operations are overseen by a leadership team that includes our Board of Directors and Hidden Valley 4-H Program Advisory Committee. Our goal is to help campers gain independence, learn new skills, and gain lasting friendships.

Hidden Valley 4-H Camp is open to all youth who fall between five and 15 years of age with the caveat of all five-year-olds must have completed kindergarten. Campers do not need to be 4-H members to attend.

Each summer the camp hosts approximately 650 children who master new skills, gain confidence, and feel what it is like to be part of our camp community. Our campers are excited to learn through hands-on experiences that promote engagement with the outdoor classroom that often includes the natural environment.

One of the goals of Hidden Valley 4-H Camp is to address the developmental needs of young people by providing opportunities for social-emotional and educational growth within the context of the natural, living classroom environment. 4-H camps also have a positive impact on the communities where they are located, employing young adults and teaching essential job skills.

Our 4-H camp also connects kids to Cornell through participation in carefully chosen projects that benefit the campers. Hidden Valley has partnerships and collaborations with Cornell University for new curriculum, projects appropriate for a camp setting and experiential learning ideas. These collaborative projects often bring research students to camp for certain parts of the camp day, something that our campers and parents enjoy as an additional opportunity.

Research from the Search Institute shows that “camps help young people discover and explore their talents, interests and values. Kids who have had these kinds of camp experiences end up being healthier and have fewer problems.” A 2003 Camp Outcomes study found that “4-H Camp helps youth become more responsible for themselves, more independent and better able to take care of their personal belongings."

In 2005, The American Camping Association undertook the first large-scale study that looked closely at outcomes for young people participating in camps. More than 5,000 families took part along with camp staff. The results provide evidence that camp is a positive influence on the development of youth, and suggests that a stay at camp benefits a child in the following ways:

--Children become more confident and experience increased self- esteem.
--Children develop more social skills that help them gain new friendships.
--Children become more adventurous and willing to try new things.

The research also indicates that these skills are often maintained long after the camping experience. One of our campers at Hidden Valley 4-H camp tells us about learning how to overcome fears and "work together with my group.” At Hidden Valley 4-H Camp we refer to this effect as “The Camp Effect” -- a lasting sense of well-being and accomplishment that children feel after participating in camp and is often one of the reasons we see many returning campers year after year.

We believe in the lasting positive impacts of our camp. We have watched campers return and become counselors. Our Camp Registrar, Maddie Ulrich, was a past camper, counselor and specialist. Our 4-H Educator, Lisa Shrout, has worked at our camp for 19 years in the capacity of camp cook, head chef and lead staff for Junior Counselors. Because of the connection Hidden Valley 4-H camp has on lasting friendships, we work toward offering camp scholarships each year. The need to provide a full or partial scholarship for youth who would not have the opportunity to participate in what our camp has to offer is high; we often receive many more requests than we can provide assistance with.

We are hosting our Annual Wines in the Valley fundraiser on October 20 from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. The event will feature a harvest meal, which is the most requested from campers and staff, local wine, cider and beer tastings, and both a silent and live auction. All proceeds from the event will directly benefit the Hidden Valley 4-H Camp scholarship fund. For more information on our Wines in the Valley event, please visit

Photo in text: Mel Schroeder (Photo provided)


For the first column in this series, click here.
For the second column in this series, click here.
For the third column in this series, click here.


© The Odessa File 2018
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869