Our Director of Education and Youth Services, Martha Andrade-Dousdebes works closely with parents to enroll children. Spaces at the camp are offered to families for a nominal fee or free of charge if parents are not able to pay the fee. For children in the programs, the camp offers exposure to a different neighborhood, new experiences, and opportunities to gain new skills.
“We try to find ways to build community with existing agencies like LSA because we can’t do it ourselves,” said Camp Director Michael Chung. “In order to bring these kids up, we have to come together as a community.”
Initially, some parents and students are reluctant to enroll, as the camp can be a new experience for families unfamiliar with the Upper East Side neighborhood, despite its proximity to East Harlem. Once students come to the camp, however, all hesitation falls away.
“I remember when Sarah came here – she did not want to be here,” said Chung of a student now in her third and final year of camp. Now, Sarah and her campmates are hoping there is a way they can come back next year, perhaps as volunteers. “We’ll try to find a way to make that happen,” said Chung.
Volunteerism is a key component to the success of the camp. The classes are taught by volunteers: students and graduates of the Convent of the Sacred Heart School who help design the curriculum based on their special skills and student interests. Because of the many volunteers teaching or assisting classes, students get plenty of one-on-one instruction. “Our students love to be with the older kids,” said Andrade-Dousdebes. “They’re great role models.”
The camp takes place in the Convent of the Sacred Heart’s sports center on East 91st Street. The building, which had been an old Verizon garage, was gutted and rebuilt, opening for the first time last August. This is the first year the building was used for the camp.