Participants of Frog Camp Casa Nueva pose in front of a picture of the Fort Worth Stockyards. The camp also includes trips to Billy Bob's and other iconic places in Fort Worth.

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It started with 107 students at Greene Family Camp in Bruceville, Texas, but since then, Frog Camp has grown into a nationally recognized extended-orientation program.

Next up: Berlin, and a possible stop in Fort Worth’s cultural district.

Frog Camp began in the summer of 1994 to increase school spirit and community development, said Barbara Brown Herman, the associate vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of student development. More than 80 percent of the Class of 2019 participated in a Frog Camp over the summer and the directors are known across campus for their passion.

“It’s given me a lot of connections with people. It’s given me people to rely on if I’m going through a tough time with a test or something else. It’s like a support group,” said Elizabeth Boulware, first-year pre-major who attended Casa Nueva C.

The growth

Some people credit the student leaders of Frog Camp with the success of its growth.

Former executive director and senior psychology major Raylee Starnes said the demands of Frog Camp are met because of its student leadership.

“Keeping it competitive and up-to-date with what incoming students need right now is really important as opposed to having a set curriculum that stays the same every single year,” Starnes said.

Frog Camp directors and supervisors have listened to the demands of students by adding a new location and a new camp.

The Honors Frog Camp will visit Berlin, Germany, for two summers starting in 2016.

The camp is scheduled for July 18-26 and has room for 24 participants.

The Honors Frog Camp has been to London, Paris, Rome and Seville.

Hunter Vaccaro, the co-executive director of Frog Camp and a junior entrepreneurial management major, said he is looking forward to experiencing Berlin with the incoming class.

“The students now would blow me out of the water, in terms of character and academics,” Vaccaro said. “It’s exciting to build those relationships with them.”

Berlin was chosen as the new location to help students understand the historical significance of the city, said Trung Nguyen, assistant director of the first-year experience.

“The generation today may not be aware how close the end of the world was during WWII and the Cold War,” Nguyen said. “Berlin brings back that idea of how important one person’s decision can be on the world. When people’s decisions or behaviors aren’t kept in check, there’s a lot of danger.”

Berlin was virtually destroyed by bombings during World War II. In 1961, the Soviet Union built the Berlin Wall, dividing the nation into East Berlin and West Berlin. Berlin was unified in 1989 when protesters tore down the wall.

Frog Camp Costa Rica participants pose for a picture. This camp will soon be undergoing a change of venue.
Frog Camp Costa Rica participants pose for a picture. This camp will soon be undergoing a change of venue. (Photo courtesy of Trung Nguyen)

There’s also talk that this could be the last year of Frog Camp Costa Rica. Faculty and staff of SDS are scouting new locations, Nguyen said.

If trustees approve a new budget in the spring, a second camp will be added in Fort Worth next summer. Casa Cultura will be similar to Casa Nueva, but it will focus more on the fine arts and museums of Fort Worth.

“People think Old West and cowboys but they don’t understand how much of a cultural aspect Fort Worth has to offer,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen said the idea for Casa Cultura was based off of students’ needs and desires.

“We want to make sure students aren’t lost in the masses. We understand that people have different interests,” Nguyen said.

Approximately 150-200 students will be attending each of the two sessions. Casa Cultura A is tentatively scheduled for June 10-12, while Casa Cultura B is tentatively scheduled for June 25-27.

A graph showing the total number of students who attended Frog Camp by the years Frog Camp has been a program.
A graph showing the total number of students who attended Frog Camp by the years Frog Camp has been a program. (Tobi Carter)

The history

A graph showing the number of Frog Camps since the program began.
A graph showing the number of Frog Camps since the program began. (Tobi Carter) Since the beginning, faculty and staff have helped facilitate conversations with the student leaders.

“What’s unique about Frog Camp is that even though there’s a set of activities across every camp, there’s many different venues and different types of camps that appeal to different interests,” Herman said.

Frog Camp Alpine, which is held in Gunnison National Forest in Colorado, was added in the summer of 1996. Alpine participants spend a week in the outdoors on low and high element challenge courses. There’s also rock climbing and zip-lining.

Frog Camp Challenge and Quest were also added in the summer of ‘96. Challenge is held at Greene Family Camp and Quest is located in Fort Worth. Challenge has had the most participants overall.

In the summer of 2000, Frog Camp Casa Nueva was added to the extended-orientation program. This camp is held in Fort Worth and helps out-of-state students find their home in a new city with trips to Billy Bob’s Texas and the Fort Worth Stockyards.

Frog Camp Resolana, which lasted three summers, was added the same summer and took participants to New Mexico.

Frog Camp went international in 2008, when the John V. Roach Honors College partnered up with the first-year experience team to create a Frog Camp that was available to Honors students only.

Nguyen said the international camps help students understand the “global citizenship” part of TCU’s mission statement.

“Frogs can make an impact not only in TCU community, but the global community,” Nguyen said. “That’s one of the big reasons why we looked at an international location. We want students to understand the two main aspects of our mission statement, and that it’s not just a tagline. Our programs really back it up.”

Frog Camp Mystery Destination participants pose for a picture. This is the second year Mystery Destination has been a part of the program.
Frog Camp Mystery Destination participants pose for a picture. This is the second year Mystery Destination has been a part of the program. (Photo courtesy of Trung Nguyen)

The summer of 2014 brought another addition to the program: Mystery Destination Frog Camp. At this camp, participants don’t know where they will be for camp until they show up at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and receive their airline tickets.

Previous mystery destinations have been Savannah, Georgia, and Portland, Oregon.

The future

The Frog Camp directors and staff said Frog Camp is great but that there’s always room for improvements.

Starnes said she’d like to see more diversity in the facilitators. Sophomore pre-business major and Frog Camp facilitator Michael Drake agreed.

“I’d love to see more opportunities for students to be facilitators. The facilitator role is so developing and so fulfilling that I want to share it with everyone who wants to do it,” Drake said.

Vaccaro said he wanted to focus on those who haven’t experienced Frog Camp before.

“We really want to reach out to those people and help them understand that Frog Camp isn’t exclusive,” Vaccaro said.

Nguyen said he wanted to encourage more faculty and staff to get involved as well. He said it would be a great opportunity for faculty and staff to learn and connect with their students without having the “authority level” of a classroom setting.

Starnes, Drake and Vaccaro said they hope to see the continued growth of fighting intolerance on campus through the activities offered at Frog Camp.

Drake said, “It’s all about making TCU a home.”