Summer vacation means the end of the school year, but it doesn’t have to mean boredom. Summer programs for high school students can give teens a fun, meaningful way to spend those long months.

There are so many to choose from. And the great news is, they don’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. Let’s have a look at some.

Summer Programs for High School Students

Teen summer programs come in a variety of flavors. Your teen can choose leadership and service opportunities, like being a camp counselor or volunteering for a charitable organization. They can also choose academic programs to prepare for college or employment. In addition, they can choose outdoor adventures or programs for builders and makers. Some programs last all day, while others involve an extended overnight stay. Or your teen can opt for shorter classes and workshops. Lots of organizations offer summer programs for high school students. You might be surprised at where you’ll find the best one for you. Here are a few places you and your teen can begin the search:

Government Sponsored Youth Summer Programs

City Parks and Recreation

Your city’s Parks and Recreation department can be an excellent summer resource for teens. Many Parks and Rec departments offer a variety of summer programs for high school students, ranging from one-hour classes to sports programs to full day programs. Teens can pursue arts, sports, cooking, outdoor activities and more.  In addition, teens often have the option of working or volunteering as staff for children’s programs. Furthermore, Parks and Recreation programs tend to be high quality and low cost. For more information, check with your city parks and recreation department.

Image CC BY 2.0 by State Farm, via Flickr.

Junior Firefighters

Teens who are interested in becoming First Responders can join the National Junior Firefighters. Many local fire departments have Junior Firefighter and Explorers programs for teens aged 14 to 21, who are interested in careers as EMTs, firefighters, and rescue workers. National Volunteer Fire Council can help you to find one near you.

National Park Service

The National Park Service offers programs for children, teens and young adults across the United States. Teens ages 15 to 18 can have fun and earn money maintaining wilderness areas, working in fisheries, improving wildlife habitats, and more with the Youth Conservation Corps. In addition, Boy Scouts ages 7 to 18 can volunteer for service projects as a Resource Stewardship Scout Ranger. Girl Scouts ages 5 to 18 can do the same, as Girl Scout Rangers. Check with the National Park Service to see which summer programs for high school students are available near you.

Department of State

The Department of State has a number of opportunities for summer foreign language study abroad, sports diplomacy, and other cultural exchange opportunities. Some of these are a year abroad programs, while others are summer programs for high school students. If your teen is considering an international career — or if they just want a unique summer experience — a cultural exchange program can help.

Programs for Makers, Builders and Designers

Image CC BY 2.0, by Walter, via Flickr.

There’s been an explosion of programs that teach kids and teens how to make things — from electronics to computer programming to graphic design and robotics and more. Wherever you are, your teen can find a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) program that suits their interests. Some of these summer programs for high school students are put on by privately run, for-profit companies. Others are hosted by schools and libraries. Still others take place in local “maker spaces.” Make Magazine has an interactive map that can help you find a maker camp near you. What are some of the things that teens can learn to make and build? Here are just a few.


Southern California maker space Rolling Robots has workshops and day programs that can teach your kids how to build working robots. In addition, they have a battle bot arena where teens can put their creations to the test. Their students can even go on to robot competitions. There are hundreds of robotics programs for teens around the country, and around the world. Teen Life has a listing of over one hundred robotics programs for teens all across the United States. Some are summer programs for high school students, while others carry on year round.

Coding and Gaming

Image CC BY 2.0 by Bago Games, via Flickr.

Teens already spend too much time in front of their screens, right? But what if they spent that time learning something that could give them a head start on their future? And what if it was fun? Coding camps have got it down to a system. Many of them teach skills for video game development using popular games like Minecraft. In addition, teens can also learn 3D animation, digital music, digital filmmaking, and web design. You can find plenty of well run camps by companies like ID Tech. But there are also many lower-cost summer programs for high school students available through libraries, schools, and other community institutions. Check out this roundup from Ed Surge for more information.


Image is in the Public Domain. Via PxHere.

Is your teen the artsy type? If so, why not consider one of the many arts summer programs for high school students? Your local Parks and Recreation department can be an excellent source of low cost classes and programs. Some programs allow teens to experiment with different media, while others give intense focus on one. There are programs for visual arts, various crafts, music, performing arts, and more. Teen Summer can give you an idea of some of the different programs available in your area.

Animals and Outdoor Adventures

Wilderness Programs

Companies like Wilderness Adventures offer month long outdoor adventure trips for middle school and high school students. But you don’t have to go that far to get out and have a good time. You can find outdoor adventures in your own community, too. Check out your local nature organizations — botanical gardens, state parks, museums, and conservation groups to see what they’re offering. Parks and Recreation departments also often have day programs exploring nature. In addition, scouting groups can be another good resource. To explore more outdoorsy summer programs for high school students, check out this article from Outside Online about the best teen wilderness adventures.

Image is in the Public Domain. By Giovanna Squadrito, via Scott Air Force Base.

Animal Programs

Lots of kids love animals, and teens are in a unique position to do more than just a trip to the zoo. But speaking of zoos, they can be a great place to find in-depth summer programs for high school students. The Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago offers a job shadowing program for teens interested in exploring zoo careers. The Oregon Zoo gives teens the opportunity to work with children’s groups and zoo visitors, educating them about the animals. In addition, many zoos also offer classes in biology and animal science for teens. Check your local zoo to see what sort of summer opportunities they may have.

Image CC By 2.0, by Bob n Renee, via Flickr.

4H and the Future Farmers of America may also have animal-related programs in your area. For more great ideas for animal summer programs for high school students, check out this article about Amazing Summer Camps for Animal Lovers.

Volunteer Programs for Teens

Image CC BY 2.0 by Fort George G. Meade Public Affairs Office, via Flickr.

Maybe your teen is interested in taking on a bit of responsibility, perhaps building their resume or college application. If so, volunteering is a great way to do it. And the great news is, there are volunteer opportunities for every taste, every skill level, and every budget. You could splash out for a summer of voluntourism in some exotic locale. For example, working with a lion rehabilitation project in Zimbabwe. But there are plenty of organizations right in your community that could use your teen’s help, and, in return, give your teen some valuable skills and experience. Here are a few.

  • Become a literacy volunteer. Help adults to help themselves by teaching them to read. At the same time, gain valuable teaching experience.
  • Be a lifeline to vulnerable seniors and others. Provide food and companionship through Meals On Wheels.
  • Become a volunteer guide, educator, or docent at your local museum.
  • Gain valuable experience and learn about medicine as a hospital volunteer.
  • In addition, you can search hundreds of different kinds of opportunities in your community at

Summer can be a time for hard-working students to relax and refresh themselves. It can also be an opportunity to gain work experience, have an adventure, or learn something new. If your teen works it out just right, they can do a little of each.

Featured Image Public Domain. Courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

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