Who here went to CTY? November 16, 2019 8:01 AM   Subscribe

This year is the 40th anniversary of CTY! The Center for Talented Youth, also known as "nerd camp," was a summer camp where high school students got to take college level courses. MetaFilter seems like the sort of place that probably has a higher-than-average percentage of alumns. Did you go?
posted by rednikki to MetaFilter-Related at 8:01 AM (45 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I definitely did some things that were run through CTY, but I don't remember taking any college level courses.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 9:07 AM on November 16, 2019

Oh, neat -- I was at the Skidmore location in...'94 and '95, I think? Being there was such a purely positive experience, and my life would be undeniably (and almost surely unrecognizably) different today had I not.
posted by nobody at 9:08 AM on November 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Wow, they are still around? I went to two of those, if I am remembering correctly. It was a long time ago but I have good memories from them.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:21 AM on November 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

I went to CTD which, at least in the 90s, was like CTY but with a lot less supervision. It was great and fully life-changing.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 10:25 AM on November 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

My nerd camp of choice was Canada/USA Mathcamp. Those were the happiest weeks of my childhood. I still have my sarongs hanging in my closet.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 10:33 AM on November 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

I went to the Lancaster (F&M) and Carlisle (Dickinson) locations of CTY in the mid-late 90's (I think it was 96-98 but I could easily be wrong about that by a year or two either way).

I also went to the Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG) at Drew University for a couple years before that.
posted by firechicago at 10:52 AM on November 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

Me! Carlisle in 2002 and 2003, and Baltimore Civic Leadership Institute in 2003. (My class was the guinea pig for that program, and they were clearly working out the kinks, but in many ways it set me off on my path to SJW-dom).

CTY gave me my best friend in high school, the two first people I kissed, several entertaining trips around the east coast meeting friends, and the knowledge that other weirdos like me were out there. I’m still intermittently in touch with people from there on Facebook, and I still light up whenever I hear American Pie.
posted by ActionPopulated at 11:10 AM on November 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

CTY alum from LMU campus, gosh I want to say 95-97? Yes, hugely influential - first time treated somewhat like an adult by teachers, first kiss, first time I ever did yoga, forced socialization. I was poor white trash, there on a big scholarship, and it was eye-opening to hang out with kids who saw the whole world as their oyster.
posted by muddgirl at 11:37 AM on November 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

I was at CTY in 86-87, and as for others it was life-changing for me. I had friends before, but these were the first friends who really understood me and didn't think I was a weirdo. It was also one of the first times I was really academically challenged. I'd taken the SATs in 7th grade, but somehow we didn't find out about the camp until I was 15. I wish I'd gotten to go even more years.

I just found this Wiki people have made to capture CTY traditions. About half of the playlist from the dances of my youth are now "canon." https://www.realcty.org/wiki/Main_Page
posted by rednikki at 12:00 PM on November 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

I honestly don't think I would have had the bravery to go away to a small private college (again, on scholarship) where I met MuddDude and my best friends if I hadn't done CTY.
posted by muddgirl at 12:33 PM on November 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

I did some distance-learning courses in...2003-2004? My mother wanted me to know how to write essays so I could get into college. I feel bad for the poor TAs / graders who had to read my nonsense.

I am still bad at writing but I have lots of language to describe writing.

I went to National Computer Camps in 2001 at Sacred Heart University; anyone here do that? I was in QBasic on windows.
posted by batter_my_heart at 1:15 PM on November 16, 2019

Oh, I did CTY for several years--first for a few years on the day camp sort of thing when I was in elementary school, and then one summer in high school I went and stayed with my grandmother while I did a math and logic one, and a a later summer I did a residential one where I learned about the portrayal of memory in media and how it corresponds with the real neurology. It was pretty fun. I have some fond memories.

I'm not entirely sure I'd call it life-changing, but then the elementary school ones I did I was going with friends in the NoVa area who were also the same friends I had in class at school, and I think the gifted-and-talented classroom I was part of at the time was way more formative. I spent grades 2 through 5 in a class with the same (more or less) bunch of bright kids who also had a whoooooole lot of neurodiversity issues, and in retrospect I think that social learning environment really set up a foundation for the way I went on to make friends and learn how to human. For me, the CTY classes I took during the summer at the Alexandria campus were kind of an extension of the stuff I was doing during the school years.
posted by sciatrix at 1:44 PM on November 16, 2019

No. My parents didn't let me.

(I don't know the whole story this was the 1990's, and a) my grandfather died that year and they wanted me at the funeral I guess? and b) I wanted to take the neuroscience classes and out of the blue my Dad said that neurologists eventually go mad from the work stress and/or subject matter, and I had resented him for that comment from that day on)
posted by polymodus at 2:26 PM on November 16, 2019

Yep. Dickinson, 1990 and 1991. It was a wonderful experience.
posted by cheapskatebay at 2:53 PM on November 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

I did I believe two summers as a middle schooler. I did one writing course and one course on plays? I think?

American Pie was on the first CD I ever bought for that reason. I also love Let It Be because I remember it as the song that meant, “hey, go back to your rooms, it’s lights out.” I have no idea if that was universal or not. Same with shouting some extra words during the chorus of American Pie.

I had my first slow dance, saw my first episode of Friends, and went to my first coffee shop while there. I consider it a big part of what developed my independence. I have suuuuuch fond memories.
posted by Night_owl at 2:54 PM on November 16, 2019

A long, long time ago...
posted by bunnysquirrel at 4:36 PM on November 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

I could swear there was a Mefite who was part of the program for extra specially talented youth who are actually math geniuses. I can't remember how I know that! (I remembered who it is, but I don't want to out anyone as a former talented youth.)

I took the SAT in 7th grade, and either my math or English score was high enough to go (but not both, as I remember it. I was only a semi-talented youth.) I never went. I got the impression that it was expensive. Also, I think my parents sort of believed that kids should spend the summer either running around outside or working at crappy summer jobs. I am sure I would have enjoyed it, but I feel kind of lucky to be a member of the last generation of middle-class kids who did not spend every waking moment being enriched.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:17 PM on November 16, 2019

I was 15 when I first had any kind of vaguely romantic connection with someone, a friend of a friend. One thing I remember was that she had done CTY, and was really into it. She told me all about the Latin classes she took, and maybe some extra math classes. She even had a shirt from the camp with "the Accusative Fig" on it. I was smitten.

I went to my mom, saying "hey, why didn't you tell me there was a camp for smart nerds??" And she was like "I did tell you, multiple times. You kept saying you'd never be caught dead doing extra schoolwork in the summer." Oh yeah, it all came back to me...

I'm not sure if I would have had fun learning fun stuff, or if I would have felt like I was stuck in school longer. Anyway, I was too shy to make a move on that girl when I should have, things went sour, and I've forever associated CTY with love lost and opportunities squandered.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:58 PM on November 16, 2019

I didn't go to the CTY camp, but I did take a Fall semester psychology class at George Washington University on scholarship when I was a freshman in high school. Much less sociable than a summer camp, as I was the only high school kid in the class, but it was definitely formative. It gave me a window on what college classes would be like, and something to look forward to while suffering through high school coursework.

I did go to a similar "nerd camp" when I was a few years younger, based at the University of Virginia. The first time I went I had an amazing time, feeling like I'd found "my people," something I desperately needed at a time in my life when I was feeling very socially isolated and misfit. The second year I went to the same camp, though, could not have been more different. Somehow over the first two or three days at the camp, I quickly became the Designated Outcast. I made no friends and endured what felt like constant teasing and mocking from the people I lived with. I felt myself become more socially awkward and less pleasant to be around in response. It was a lesson in how much social relationships, particularly among children, are based on arbitrary factors, and how much there is need for certain "roles" to be filled, so much so that I could go from being well-liked and fitting in one year to reviled and outcast the next, just because that was the role I happened to fall into.

I never really have any nostalgia for the years when I was between about 10 and 16.
posted by biogeo at 6:14 PM on November 16, 2019

Oh yeah, the one social memory I have of the CTY thing I did as a teenager was receiving the single weirdest compliment of my entire life: a girl very quickly told me I had lovely eyebrows and then fled. It would be something like five to seven years before I realized that some people did things with their eyebrows beyond just letting them grow freely out of the skull.
posted by sciatrix at 6:31 PM on November 16, 2019

I do have one physical legacy from one of the CTY camps I went to. For some reason lost to memory (which likely means I was totally at fault) I got in a fight with another kid, punched him in the mouth, and tore my hand open on his braces; the scar is still there on my hand. There weren't any disciplinary consequences other than we had to shake hands, nor did they take either of us to the doctor; I think he was fine but I probably should have gotten stitches. We ended up getting along the rest of the time we were there so at least there didn't seem to be any hard feelings.

I don't recall the specifics of most of the classes other than that some were math and computer science. What I really remember, and what made the longest-lasting impression on me, was how all of the instructors (mostly grad students I assume?) made us feel like they were presenting information to peers, not talking down to little kids (which of course is what we were). They got to the tone of the whole thing exactly right, and it made university seem like something to really look forward to.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:02 PM on November 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Not quite the same but I was a TASPer... anyone else here? :)
posted by ipsative at 8:24 PM on November 16, 2019

I never went to CTY, though lots of people I knew did, because I caught a very weird vibe off it, feeling like it was aimed at protecting "smart kids" from having to socialize with "their lessers" and perhaps encouraging those "smart kids" to romantically imprint on each other and thereby produce superior infants, either with their CTY co-campers or later people who reminded them of them. As an adult, I have read some of Stanley's writing on education and I don't find a hint of that, so I think I probably just wrongly formed this impression and in my rigid adolescent way decided CTY Is Bad without really investigating. I would certainly welcome my kids going if they wanted to.
posted by escabeche at 5:37 AM on November 17, 2019

I did a couple of fiction writing distance learning courses, which I loved, and then one summer of Genetics when I was maybe 14 or 15. My best friend had been the year before and raved about it, so I convinced my parents to send me too.

It was a pretty miserable summer -- I was terribly homesick, embarrassed about it since everyone else was having so much fun, and guilty because it cost my parents so much to send me there. I basically felt isolated and lonely the entire time and have a lot of bad memories. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer on all the nostalgia, but sleepaway camp is not for everyone.

Also, a wasp laid eggs in my bag when I was there, so a few days after I got home, the floor of my bedroom was covered with dead baby wasps; it was horrible.
posted by basalganglia at 7:46 AM on November 17, 2019

I did. Went for three magical summers: 90-92.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 8:07 AM on November 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

I did, in the 80s! After a few years of being a student I was even a TA one year. It was a good experience, though I did come away with the impression that every other kid was way more talented than me.
posted by moonmilk at 9:19 AM on November 17, 2019

Governor's School for the Arts here.
posted by Miko at 11:56 AM on November 17, 2019

Me! Dickinson '83, '84 and '85.

CTY was truly a formative experience for me. It was the first time I ever really fit in somewhere. The strength of the friendships I made there carried me through high school.

Do all the other Dickinson alumni remember sharing the campus with the Washington Redskins and the 'Rinas? And the after-class recreation period called Mandatory Fun?
posted by workerant at 5:35 PM on November 17, 2019 [3 favorites]

I desperately wanted to go, but I wasn't allowed to. I'm assuming now that my parents couldn't afford it. I got the highest SAT score in my middle school and was one of top scorers in the state. I have fancy awards in my parents' basement still. Aaaand, then a few years later I didn't bother to put my fully filled out, stamped application to Boston University in the mail because I still don't really know why, and flunked out of my state safety school after one semester.

The mister's parents also wouldn't let him go, for different reasons. And it's been seventeen years of trying our best not to project our former childhood Gifted Kid star neuroses on Kid Ruki. We fucked up big time by making her take AP History her freshman year, but we learned our lesson, apologized sincerely and profusely, and let her go her way after that, which led to her transferring to a charter school for the arts the following year. She's developing her talents and interests now, not the ones we wanted her have.

I tied so much of my identity into Being Smart for so long, and now... Friday night, I was standing in my bathroom, having a conversation with the mister about replacing the blinds, and I lost the word bathroom. My brain insisted on calling the room I was in "kitchen." I knew it wasn't the kitchen, but I kept saying it, over and over, like I had short-circuited. Finally, I gave up trying to remember the word that is definitely not kitchen and said "the room that we're in."

It's OK, though, and I'm sorry if I sound overly bleak. I used to mourn what I saw as my wasted potential, and not being able to do any of the CTY stuff was included in that, but now I'm glad I didn't go. Being a gifted kid was really hard on me, I realize now, and going to CTY camp would have made it worse. I don't know if the person I would have become would have been able to deal with the cognitive decline. So it really is OK. I eventually went back and got a college degree. And then a masters. And I'm happy, in part because in the process of learning to deal with the limitations of my disability, I've finally learned that my self-worth has nothing to do with Being Smart.
posted by Ruki at 8:08 PM on November 17, 2019 [5 favorites]

Workerant, I remember the Redskins, the Rinas and Mandatory Fun! How about Anita Tuvin Schlecther?
posted by rednikki at 12:00 AM on November 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

Wow, yeah. That's where the dances were held.

I admit to some questionable sartorial choices at those dances. O_o
posted by workerant at 6:38 AM on November 18, 2019

I believe CTY just covers the mid-Atlantic and New England? I grew up in NC, so I did Duke TIP stuff instead.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:42 AM on November 18, 2019

I believe CTY just covers the mid-Atlantic and New England?

They currently show some locations on both the east and west coast of the US, plus Hong Kong, so there is some geographical spread but definitely not everywhere. (link)

I'm assuming now that my parents couldn't afford it.

I don't know what it cost when I went, but looking at their website, wow, it really is pricey. Now I am curious how I was able to go; my family definitely didn't have that kind of money. Maybe it was a lot cheaper back in the day, or maybe there were scholarships?
posted by Dip Flash at 7:01 AM on November 18, 2019

The Los Angeles program opened in the early 90s. There was also "baby CTY" for 5th and 6th graders at Stanford starting around the same time.

Yes there were scholarships.

It's interesting how people related to CTY as part of a "gifted" identity. I did CTY because I loved school and taking summer classes seemed like the best idea ever. The shine of summer school really started to wear off by high school.
posted by muddgirl at 8:17 AM on November 18, 2019

I enjoyed it quite a bit the two summers I went (Dickinson). I do think most people don't benefit from amping up the force of the "gifted" label, and CTY is definitely guilty of that. But I really did enjoy it.
posted by praemunire at 11:05 AM on November 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

I did Duke TIP stuff instead.

Yeah, I was in GA and went to TIP several years, which seems like its the Southern version of this (or at least one of them).
posted by thefoxgod at 1:29 PM on November 18, 2019

Me! I was at Hamilton and Skidmore in the early 90s. It was huge and wonderful for me. And iirc, it was how I discovered the internet! A CTY friend said she'd heard of this thing called email and maybe when I got home I could try to figure it out so we could keep in touch.
posted by 168 at 6:18 PM on November 18, 2019

I also went to CTY and found it isolating and lonely! I wish I'd had the stereotypical experience, but the only thing I got out of it was an easy A on a college common core subject and most of the lyrics of "American Pie."

I had a much better time at EPGY, the late, great West Coast knock-off, but the best time of all was growing the fuck up and not having to be a kid anymore, in summer school or otherwise. :)
posted by marfa, texas at 10:29 PM on November 18, 2019

Not quite the same, but Centrum Young Writers Camp for a week in Port Townsend every summer grades 7 through 10 was pretty foundational for me. Made some very good friends there, reinvented myself (for better and worse), and learned enough about writing to help pave the way to a long career in technical communication. So I totally get how this could have been an important part of someone's history. (Probably just as well that I chose to indulge both my artistic and technical sides, though. God only knows what I would have perpetrated on the world had I gone all in on the sciences!)
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:12 PM on November 19, 2019

Oh, wow. I think I must have been on the early end of this, before they created summer camps. I remember taking the SATs in 7th grade and going to an event at Johns Hopkins where they gave out awards based on our scores. That would have been SMPY, before SET and CTY.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:29 PM on November 19, 2019

I went to CTY! Dickinson, 1989-1993. Those three weeks each summer were the best experiences of my life growing up, and changed my life in more ways than I can count.

I also remember the Redskins and the 'rinas, and hadn't thought about Anita Tuvin Schlechter in decades...
posted by southern_sky at 10:04 PM on November 20, 2019

I did CTY! In the late nineties, probably 1996 and 1997 or something like that, at the F&M campus in Lancaster and the $3,000 tuition was SUCH A HUGE DEAL for my immigrant parents, but they felt very strongly that my essay writing needed improvement.

And it was eye-opening. I wasn't even allowed to go to sleepovers, and I've always been socially awkward, so the first year was isolating and lonely. I mostly learned about how college cafeterias meant that Cocoa Puffs tasted great slightly soggy, but the second year, I met someone who was my first real friend, like, ever. I had people that I hung out with at school, but I didn't like them the way that I liked my friend Lauren, who was brilliant and wonderful and tall and listened to me talk endlessly about Star Trek even though she was much less interested. And she liked me back! And we had fun together!


I looked her up recently, and she appears to still be brilliant and wonderful and tall and have received a very fancy education that she now uses to do real, honorable work in the world. I'm so glad.

Also, if you were an English TA at CTY then, and your name was Molly and you taught at the University of Delaware, I am sorry that I got you into trouble by bringing a mattress to study hall the last day of class.
posted by joyceanmachine at 11:14 AM on November 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

There were 'rinas at Lancaster, too? I went to Skidmore in the mid-'90s, and we had 'rinas and the Harlem Boys Choir as our campus-mates.

Many years later, I went to on to live with one of my CTY counselors, and I'm still friends with some of the people I met there. Like a lot of folks, it was one of the first places where I ever really felt like I fit in (let's just say it wasn't cool to love reading where I grew up). I teach college now, and for a while I taught at an institution that was a CTY campus in the summer; some afternoons I'd leave my office and walk through a swarm of kids in CTY lanyards playing frisbee and be hit by an immense wave of nostalgia.
posted by dizziest at 3:56 PM on November 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

I never went to CTY as a student but worked as a TA for a few summers in the late-00s. For the staff as much as the students it's a real hothouse environment, with lots of instant friendships and relationships that don't last much beyond the summer. The biggest long-term effect of CTY on my life is that it's where I met my wife, who was also working there as a TA.

We don't keep in touch with anyone else from CTY days, and I always wonder how many long-term relationships emerge out of the CTY experience.
posted by crazy with stars at 4:31 PM on November 21, 2019

I did one of the CTY correspondence courses via a scholarship, but never went to camp--my parents couldn't afford it, and I wasn't enthusiastic about the prospect anyway.

(And I'm guessing there are several MeFites in SET!)
posted by yarntheory at 3:39 PM on November 24, 2019

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