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NY values

At Passport NYC, the ethos is also aspirational, but if the young people there are racing toward adulthood, it is the Bravo television version, a New York existence in which everyone is passionately creative. On most days, the campers -- a mix from all over the country, as well as Mexico, Canada and the Upper East Side -- are out the door of the Y by 8:30 a.m., on their way to their first class or session with someone plugged in. "They're really commuting," said Molly Hott, the director of Passport NYC. "Parents today want to know their children are directed."

By 11:30 a.m. on a recent Thursday, teenagers were wiping down kitchen counters in the basement kitchen of an Upper West Side synagogue, having already whipped up baba ghanouj and couscous with stewed vegetables for a Moroccan Shabbat dinner (the camp is financed, in part, by the Foundation for Jewish Camp, and has a community service component).

Some parents pay good money so that their children can come as close to possible to living out the fantasy that they are demigods battling mythological monsters; at Passport NYC, parents are paying ($3,900 for three weeks) so their children can test out the fantasy of a glamorous New York career.

"Meeting Johnny Iuzzini" -- Jean Georges's pastry chef -- "was a life-changing experience," said Jesse Nagelberg, 16, of East Brunswick, N.J., who was in the kitchen that morning. "To see him use molecular gastronomy, to take a strawberry compote and put it into calcium nitrate so that it totally changed the consistency -- it opened my mind to an entire world of pastry." Jesse already runs his own catering business; now he thinks he might shift his focus in the direction of pastry.

When the economy is good, it is easy to raise an eyebrow at parents who urge their children to consider careers before they have even filled out college applications. When the economy is slow, the push suddenly seems more practical, even when the children chase less-than-practical careers.

Worst-case scenario, we will have a generation of aspirational, empowered young people coming up against a still-sluggish job market, one that cannot accommodate all that confidence and expectation. Best case, they will use that energy and confidence to recharge whatever they find.

Summer Camp for the Cool and Career-Conscious 13-Year-Old
Published: July 30, 2010
For some children, vacation season is a time to be hip and "aspirational."


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