May 12, 2013
From Bulletin staff reporters:
To help local summer camps expand to serve more area young people, a $103,703 community partnership grant from the Harvest Foundation has been awarded to The Boys and Girls Clubs of the Blue Ridge, The Family YMCA and MHC After 3.
These three organizations will work together to serve more low-income youth in their programs this summer, according to a Harvest news release.
The goal is to engage 190 more youth than the organizations normally would serve in day-long, high-quality recreational and academic programs.
The overall objective of the summer camps every year is to combat summer learning loss for students.
“The ‘summer learning slide’ is well-documented in educational research. We know that lower-income youth who don’t have access to quality summer learning opportunities start the school year at a disadvantage,” said Laurie Wardle, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Blue Ridge.
“Summer programming for the past two years at the Boys & Girls Clubs has focused on narrowing that gap for students in our area. Thanks to the additional funds from the Harvest Foundation, we’ll be able to serve more students who need us most this summer. We are working hard with school personnel and the faith community to identify students who are in need of academic enrichment and letting parents know that this opportunity is available,” she added.
Students also experience personal development benefits from camps. To that end, the three summer camp providers, along with other community organizations that serve youth, will coordinate enrichment programs that are both fun and academically engaging.
Among the many programs the campers will enjoy are STEM-related learning with the Virginia Museum of Natural History and the NASA Star Lab; theater and fine arts with the Spencer-Penn Centre and Piedmont Arts Association; specially designed core- and extra-curricular courses at Patrick Henry Community College; visits to many recreational and tourist amenities throughout the region; and more.
“The Y is excited to partner with the Harvest Foundation to engage more youth in the community,” said Brad Kinkema, CEO/executive director of the Martinsville-Henry County Family YMCA. “Through our summer day camp we can help transform those in our care and help prevent summer learning loss.”
Last summer during the Harvest-funded summer camp pilot program, more than 60 community organizations came together to expose youth to nature, theater, science and technology, athletics and other academic and recreational activities. Harvest paid or partially paid registration and other fees for 180 of the 630 youngsters who participated in camps held throughout the area.
This summer, with the addition of MHC After 3 into the partnership, the camps’ reach into underserved parts of the community will expand to 190 new youth.
Kinkema said the additional students will be found by working with the schools, examining the organizations’ waiting lists and other efforts.
“MHC After 3 is excited to expand ‘Ultimate Summer Experience’ middle school camp and ‘Summer Discovery Institute’ high school camp through The Harvest Foundation summer learning grant,” said Shanna Francisco-King, program coordinator of MHC After 3. “Our area youth have benefited from Harvest’s ongoing commitment to high quality youth development programming and we are excited to connect more youth to these amazing summer opportunities at no cost to families.”
Gladys Hairston, Harvest Foundation program associate, said area young people should not miss miss out on a memorable, enriching summer because of their financial circumstances.
“The need in our community is greater than what we’ve even begun to touch, but it’s great to move in this positive direction,” she said. “Our community is blessed to have organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs, the YMCA, MHC After 3 and multiple others who are passionate about the youth of Martinsville-Henry County. It’s going to be an exciting summer for all the campers.”The Harvest Foundation was established in 2002 from the sale of the Memorial Hospital in Martinsville. It uses the proceeds from the same to invest in programs and initiatives to address local challenges in health, education and community vitality.
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