Hope alive for East Side children
More of Charleston's East Side children should be delighted to hear that "Hope" still exists.
Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen announced Tuesday at a news conference the plans for continuing Camp Hope, a late evening program for 7- to 12-year-olds that began as a five-week pilot program last summer at Fraser Elementary in downtown Charleston.
And because of its success, the camp will be happening again this year at the school beginning on June 16, and it will last three weeks longer, till Aug. 8.
The camp operates 6-9 p.m. and offers 50 children who attend the school or live in the surrounding community with the opportunity to become involved in safer and healthier activities such as swimming, dancing and going on field trips around the city.
Children will also be mentored along the way by role models and positive influences who will teach the kids leadership skills along with crime and fire prevention and drug awareness.
But this year, the camp will add another component that will keep the children's minds buzzing throughout the summer and give them a head start on next school year, Mullen said.
The school and city will join forces with the College of Charleston's Center for Partnership to Improve Education to integrate a new educational element to the program.
"We recognized that not only is it important for us to create an environment for these children that will be positive growth opportunities in terms of recreation, in social skills and other opportunities that will be available through field trips and other things, but we also wanted to give them the opportunity to continue to grow and develop their skills over the summer," Mullen said.
The center will focus on strengthening the children's literacy and mathematics skills and will provide pre- and post-assessments in a fun and hands-on approach, according to Dr. Pauline Egelson, who represented the center at the news conference.
"We believe this is a very innovative and effective program," Egelson said of Camp Hope. "We are pressed with the commitment on the part of the community to support this initiative."
While the camp is sponsored by many community groups and organizations, the center itself will also have the help of some of the college's professors, graduate assistants, the center's staff, community volunteers and others to make the camp a fun and educational experience.
The idea for the camp was originated by Chief Mullen who recognized the summer evening hours as a time when "there were no other recreational activities that were structured to provide these children with an environment which was positive and wholesome and that would empower them."
Other speakers were Charleston YMCA CEO Paul Stoney, who represented the sponsoring group and Mayor Joe Riley, both of whom were excited to talk about the camp's endeavours.
Riley called experiences like the ones that Camp Hope will pro-vide 'life changing' for young minds.
Summer is "a time that young people could miss opportunities if they aren't positively engaged," Riley said. "On the other side, if they are, then they have wonderful potential for growth - for emotional growth and intellectual growth, for developing positive relationships with adults, for integration in a wonderful series of experiences."
As far as expanding the camp into other parts of the city, Mullen said he hopes that they can provide a model for other schools who may want to start their own summer evening camp but that Camp Hope will stay at Fraser Elementary exclusively.
"If it is anything like what we achieved last summer, I am very excited," Mullen said. "Because as a participant myself in the camp, I think I probably gained and took away as much as the children did just by seeing their happy faces and seeing the activities and seeing the positive results."