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Thursday, July 15, 2010

DC SCORES summer camps a welcoming place for program participants and others

Yes, these are the dog days of summer, as most of us just try to stay cool during this oppressive heat spell.

But that isn’t the case for a large group of DC SCORES students who are participating in summer camp every day, learning about such topics as creative writing, visual arts, nutrition and more. Currently, dozens of elementary school students are attending a six-week day camp at Bruce-Monroe Elementary School – and starting next week, there will also be three week-long soccer camps at Tubman Elementary School.

In the coming weeks, we will keep you updated on what students are learning about out in the sun. But to give you a sense of what these free opportunities can present for area students, here’s a story from last year written by Elementary School Coordinator Cory Chimka:

Justin did not attend a DC SCORES school, but as his school was not open during the summer of 2009, he was attending Truesdell Education Center in the morning for reading and math remediation. This was the site where DC SCORES held our successful Summer Arts & Soccer Camp each weekday afternoon.

Justin was attending summer school in the morning because he had “failed 5th grade” due to “behavior problems,” and was told by his school that without successful completion of summer school at Truesdell, he would be retained and have to repeat the grade. Justin had nothing, however, to do when summer school dismissed at 12:30 p.m. He had a key to his apartment, but both of his parents would be at work well into the evening.

For the first two days of the DC SCORES summer camp, Justin stood on the opposite side of the Truesdell fence, watching. On the third day, I recognized him from some other work I had done. I went up to Justin and asked him about his plans for the summer.

Justin confessed that he was required to complete math and reading summer school, but said he was “going to work really hard” so he wouldn’t be held back and have to repeat the 5th grade. Justin told me he had no plans for the afternoon, but he “had the house to himself.” Naturally, I asked him if he liked soccer or art, and he replied that he loved soccer and was a prolific cartoonist. I then suggested that, starting the next day, he be a part of the DC SCORES Summer Soccer & Arts Camp.

“You mean I could be a part of this?” Justin sounded skeptical, motioning to the students on the field participating in small-sided soccer scrimmages.

“Of course. Have your folks fill out these forms tonight, and as soon as I get the forms back, you’re in.”

Justin smiled from ear to ear, spun 180 degrees on his heels and sprinted in the direction of his family’s apartment building. He arrived the next day, immediately after summer school, with paperwork filled out, athletic gear on and a very serious attitude. Justin rarely spoke the following two days, listening intently and following the instructions of both his soccer coaches and the art specialists.

On the second day, I was approached by a staff member from Justin’s school who was also placed at Truesdell for the summer.

“You let Justin into your program?!” she said.
“Yes, why?”
“You don’t want him in your program; he’s bad news.”
“I know Justin; he’ll be great.”

During his second week, Justin, remaining very serious, came out of his shell, becoming a leader to the third and fourth graders at the camp. At the end of the week, votes were tallied, and Justin was presented with the Leadership Award for the week by his peers at camp.

Justin wore his “Leader” T-shirt most days the rest of the summer. He was so proud. I hope that teacher was watching.

-- Written by Cory Chimka, Elementary School Program Coordinator

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