MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In about two months, schools will be closing for the summer. That means, the kids will need some activities to keep from getting bored.

One option for families is to send their children and teenagers to summer camps for a few weeks. Those that focus on sports and outdoor activities are popular, and there are many fun camps that concentrate on academics.

What they all have in common is, they cost money. But there are ways families can pay for summer camps, if they can’t afford it.

You might be surprised just how much a week at camp costs.

A typical day camp for a kid in the Twin Cities can run between $300 to $400 a week, per child.

It’s definitely worth your while to ask if there is financial aid available.

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education has money from a federal grant that allows low-income families to apply for money that covers the full cost of an academic camp. And there are so many to choose from on college campuses all over the state.

Imagine spending a week working alongside doctors, nurses, even Medivac teams. Or maybe scientists and writers, or actors and musicians.

The intent of the program is to help students develop skills that will put them on track to college.

Dr. Nancy Walters oversees the summer academic enrichment program for the Office of Higher Education.

“It keeps them involved, motivates them academically, gets them connected with other students who are also preparing themselves and gives parents peace of mind, as well,” she said.

The list of academic camps includes debate, foreign languages, choir, even piano and organ.

About 340 students have already been granted stipends for this summer, but the state is looking for more.

“We have remaining about $220,000. We still have money to support student attendance at our academic programs,” she said.

The feedback from students and parents the last three summers has been positive.

“This is from a student, ‘I had a wonderful time at camp. Your donation made it possible for me to learn more about the culture of Spanish-speaking people,'” she said.

Educators call the program a worthwhile investment, giving students a taste of the college experience and motivation to go after it.

“That one week will motivate and often empower because many students think this is an experience that is beyond what I can do,” Dr. Walters said.

The application process is open until the money runs out.

To apply, your family must be eligible for free or reduced lunch, even if you choose not to use it.

So for a family of five, that would be an annual income of no more than $51,000.

The award is up to $1,000 a student for a single one-week or two-week camp and for kids who’ve completed grades 3 through 11.

The Office of Higher Education has been awarding the stipends since 2011, but this is the last summer they have the federal funding to do it.

They encourage families to ask camps about financial aid from other sources, because scholarships are often not well publicized.

For more information about the scholarships, click here.

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