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Our Program

tides6TIDES (Transitional Independence & Directed Experiential Summer) offers older teens and young adults the opportunity to take the next step in their journey. The TIDES program was so named to both allow our teens to retain the connection to Camp Starfish, while also signifying “change” and “new beginnings.” When joining the TIDES program, teens make the shift from being a camper participant, entertained and supervised by counselors, to being a trainee, responsible for managing their day with support from advisors. 

A significant aspect of the program is that instead of living in cabins with counselors as when they were campers, trainees live in dorm-style sections of a cabin where Advisors are housed in the building but not in the room. The space includes a common living area where trainees can spend social time, and where they will work together to make their community run. Advisors provide guidance, instruction and supervision to ensure trainee’s safety and encourage their success in the program, but do not do things for trainees. 

TIDES is specifically designed to address 3 of the 4 major areas of transitional planning for special needs youth: independent living, community participation and job skills. (the 4th area, education, is addressed at school). In addition, the program incorporates a focus on both interpersonal interactions and self-advocacy. Each of these 5 areas have several specific goals associated with them. They are:




Independent Living Skills

Helping trainees build their independent living skills focuses on the specific skills required for a future outside of their parents/guardians’ homes. These include nutrition, menu planning and cooking; medication management, hygiene and health; and money management/budgeting. Goals for independent living include opening a bank account, participating in regular exercise, and following self-care routines.

            tides9   Community Participation

Community participation has been a hallmark of the experience that trainees have come to expect as campers at Starfish. In the TIDES program, the social skills of building friendships and maintaining positive relationships continue to be expanded upon. Trainees are responsible for working together to devising spending plans for a shared leisure budget, using and cleaning shared common spaces, and being part of the larger camp community. Additionally, they have opportunities to try out new potential hobbies that they can further engage with after camp. Goals in community living include participating in food budgeting, shopping, meal preparation and dining, creating a community calendar, and participating in activities rather than self-isolating.
  tides7   Job Skills

Job skills are addressed through a core element of the program: running a business. The TIDES trainees operate, with support from a Program Director and their Advisors, a private “swim and beach club” for local families. They are responsible for filling “shifts” for up to five hours daily, Monday through Friday, including roles such as grounds crew, store clerk, crafts instructor and customer service. Trainees are responsible for checking their schedule daily, being on time, being in uniform, and being ready to work. Job skill goals include demonstrating positive and professional work habits, understanding earnings and deductions, and visiting/practicing interviews at area businesses.
  tides4   Interpersonal Interactions

The focus on interpersonal interactions allows Advisors to help trainees identify and address lapses in social expectations. Trainees work on identifying the impact their actions and behaviors have on their interactions with others, and on expanding the social skills they learned as campers. Goals for interpersonal interactions include taking responsibility, resolving conflicts, and making amends, as well as learning to balance appropriate use of electronics in social situations.
  tides1   Self-Advocacy

Additionally, the TIDES program introduces the essential life skill of self-advocacy. Trainees take a learning style inventory to help them and their Advisors more clearly understand their personal learning style, then apply the results to their day-to-day program. Goals for self-advocacy include learning how to obtain the information needed to make good decisions, appropriately expressing needs and wants, and addressing uncomfortable topics or situations in a socially appropriate way.



Tuition Fee, Earnings & Forfeits 

Families (or sponsoring agencies) pay a tuition fee for the 4-week program (see Dates and Rates for current tuition). This fee covers all program supplies, training, coaching, camp-run activities on and off-site (with the exception of some activities which by program design require trainees to choose if they would like to go and pay the cost from their earnings), uniforms, housing and both camp-provided meals as well as groceries/supplies for cooking. 

Trainees are “paid” weekly for the work they do in the job skills portion of the program, after deductions are calculated for any “forfeits” taken during the week. The TIDES program specifically uses the language of “forfeits” rather than “fines” to describe deductions as it implies that it is something a trainee has chosen, rather than something being done to them. A trainee, for example, may choose to forfeit some of their daily earnings by not arriving on time or by violating a community standard and being unwilling to make the necessary amends. Advisors also ensure that there are opportunities each week for trainees to take on extra responsibilities to make additional earnings, should they wish to do so. At the end of the week, trainees meet with their Advisor to view their “paystub” which outlines all regular and extra earnings as well as any deductions, then travel as a group to the bank to deposit their pay and take out spending money for the week ahead. See a sample weekly "paystub" here. TIDES is NOT a job and Trainees are not employees; their "pay" is a stipend they receive as part of an educational program. 


Sessions & Schedule

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Due to its unique structure, responsibilities and freedoms, once teens make the transition to the teen/young-adult TIDES program, they will remain in TIDES for the duration of their camp experience, unless the trainee, parent/guardian and camp agree that the trainee was not ready for the transition and should return to main camp programming. 

There are two 4-week TIDES sessions. On the final day of the session, teens invite their parents/guardians and special guests to join them for an awards ceremony and banquet that they plan and prepare themselves. Participants may participate in both sessions provided there is space available that does not take away the opportunity from another Trainee attending their first session. 




Signing Up

If you believe your teen/young adult is ready for TIDES, a parent/guardian must complete the online returning camper application (so we have up-to-date information and all the appropriate permissions). Once that application is received, potential trainees will be asked to complete an application and "interview" with an administrator and/or a director (over Skype if in-person is not possible due to location). If you are not certain about your camper transitioning into TIDES, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by email or phone to discuss options. TIDES participants will require two references prior to final acceptance. Complete details will be provided to applicants. 

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