In 1982, a gifted education specialist Dr. Larry Coleman and an active parent named Gayle Bush joined together with the dream of providing a summertime supplement to school-year education for gifted children. Their motto was- Learning is Fun.
In 2001, the camp formally reorganized itself as a non-profit organization under the name “The Appalachian Institute for Creative Learning.” As well as being able to pursue grant and scholarship money with the non-profit status, the new name reflected a different emphasis. There are many programs now that serve gifted children. But AICL is not merely a pre-college academic booster shot. Instead, what AICL does is to create an environment in which it’s safe to laugh and learn, to risk and fail, to experiment with something outside of one’s competence. We celebrate the life of the mind, but we’ve seen too many bright, interesting campers who don’t necessarily fit well in a traditional school model to limit ourselves to those who’ve been classified as “gifted.” Instead, we call our campers “motivated learners,” figuring anyone who shows up to take biology, math, or art in July is motivated.
What campers and parents have to say
- “My dad always asks me if I’m growing out of camp, but I find I’m growing into it each year. I just become more and more comfortable.” - Katie, 17
- “I enjoy the creative atmosphere. This is a place where I am actually in the social circle.” - David, 15
"My two daughters have gone to dozens of camps over the years—art camps, nature camps, Girl Scout camps, soccer camps—but there has never been a camp that they have loved as much as AICL. AICL has allowed them to try classes that they never would have tried, and develop new interests. They've made friends that will likely be life-long. The caring and intelligence of the staff is evident in each person that I've encountered. And one thing that I appreciate about AICL is that is makes room for the kids that are a little bit different, a little bit outside the mainstream. Every kid seems to find their place there. AICL is the highlight of my daughters' summer, and it has been for four years now. I highly recommend it." Elizabeth Garzarelli-Principal
- "Thank you so much for all you do for all the kids who attend AICL. Those of us who were lucky enough to find you (and wish we'd found you earlier) can't begin to tell you what you mean to our children. You somehow do exactly what the website says - you take each kid where they are and help build them up, broaden their horizons, and encourage them to be proud of who they are.When my son started camp, you had no way of knowing how he was struggling to figure out who he was, trying to fit in at school but always feeling like a square peg in the round hole. I know, beyond a doubt, that the one or two weeks he spent with you each summer (learning about anything from Vikings to animation to ethics and religion) did wonders for his self confidence and helped him figure out it was just okay to be who he is. There was nothing my son looked forward to as much as AICL each summer. You truly show you care about these kids and each other. That is not easy to find anywhere these days. It is no wonder AICL fills up so rapidly each year. Your excellence couldn't be kept a secret. Thank you for taking such good care of my son and all the campers for all these years. You are a true inspiration to us all!"- Parent
My daughter discovered AICL when she was in the seventh grade, when a friend who was affiliated with the camp said he thought my daughter might be a good fit. I had never heard of it, but when we saw the list of crazy workshops we both got excited. Also, I had assumed we would not be able to afford a summer camp, but I found the price to be very reasonable. My daughter is creative and someone who doesn't usually color between the lines, so it seemed like it might be just the place for her.
That year the camp was only one week. It was the first time my daughter had stayed away from home that long and she didn't know anyone going to camp, so I was concerned she might get homesick. But from the first minute we arrived, she felt at home and I felt my daughter was in good hands. She loved camp and had no problem being away from home. The next year she went for both weeks and has gone every year since then. She has even given up some pretty exciting opportunities because it would have meant missing AICL. She "graduated" last year and is hoping to be a counselor-in-training this summer.
The one thing that is difficult about AICL is describing it to others! For my child it was a place where she was encouraged to be her true self, where she learned and saw modeled acceptance and compassion, where she had fun but also learned some skills, and where she met friends she'll have a lifetime. It is really not like any other camp. Where else can you learn how to be a Viking, create your own musical, get tips on arguing, and be chased by zombies - all in the same week?
Liz McGeachy- Mother of a happy camper