Summer enrichment camps can change children’s lives

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A special guide for students of color is now available

It’s cold outside and the children are in school, but before long spring will come. Now is the time for parents to start thinking about what their children will do when summer is in and school is out. For Roslyn Harmon, the decision she and her parents made in the spring of 1994 as to how she would spend her upcoming summer vacation was life changing.

Harmon, then a shy 18-year-old high school senior, was apprehensive about starting college in the fall. Her mother picked up a summer Academic Guide, reviewed the listings, and chose a program that she and her daughter thought would be a good fit for Harmon. That summer, Harmon attended a two-week program that exposed her to an enriching pre-college experience on a college campus.

“I had the opportunity to attend classes, establish lasting relationships with friends and teachers who are still in my life today, and really gained the confidence and maturity needed to prepare me for college and life,” Harmon writes in her email interview with me. That summer program adventure facilitated Harmon’s transition to the University of Minnesota, from which she subsequently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Harmon’s camp was listed in the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership’s (MMEP) publication of summer programs. MMEP has announced that the 2008 Academic Enrichment Guide is now available. The Guide lists summer programs and a few year-round programs as well; it is published for students of color and their families specifically to make it easier to find out about and enroll in enrichment programs.

MMEP’s program director, Mona Harris, emphasizes the importance of summer academic enrichment, which is supported by research findings. She says, “These summer programs with some academic content are important steps for students to be successful in school.”

This year’s guide is available in print and online. The print version has 85 listings and the online version is updated regularly. Harris reports that all of the participants in the Guide have committed to providing opportunities for students of color in an environment that seeks diversity and cultural competence in its staff and participants.

There are day camps as well as residential camps located in the city and outside the city. Camps run as short as two days and as long as six weeks. There are camps that specialize in music, computers, arts, writing, outdoor recreation, leadership, agriculture, career prep, languages and academic studies — something for every child.

There are camps for first-graders all the way up to college sophomores. “I think every student should have a summer experience on a college campus before they graduate from high school,” says Harris.

Some of the programs listed are free of charge; for others there is a sliding fee scale. However, Harris advises, “Never let the cost of camp be a barrier. There are scholarship sources, even if not listed in the Guide — scholarship money may have come in.” Additionally, there are a few programs that pay a stipend to students who attend.

Harmon reflects on the lessons she learned at camp: “Not to be afraid, but to be confident in myself. It provided me with a support system, a team of passionate staff members who helped shape and mold me to be the most successful woman leader I am today!”

To order a copy of the MMEP 2008 Academic Enrichment Guide, 1) go to www.mmep.net to the Enrichment Guide order form; 2) call 651-645-7400 ext. 207; 3) go to your school counselor’s office; or 4) attend a summer enrichment fair co-hosted by MMEP.

Enrichment fairs will be held:

Saturday, February 23, 11 am to 2:15 pm, “Thinking College Early Fair,” Arlington High School, St. Paul (for middle and high school students)

Saturday, March 8, 9:30 am to 1:30 pm, “Summer Enrichment Fair,” Blake School, 511 Kenwood Parkway, Minneapolis (for high school students)

The Minnesota Minority Education Partnership (MMEP), founded in 1987, is a nonprofit collaborative that formally brings together major educational institutions in Minnesota with people of color to increase the success of Minnesota students of color in Minnesota schools, colleges and universities. For more information, go to www.mmep.net.

Jennifer Holder welcomes reader responses to jholder@spokesman-recorder.com.

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