Led by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), National Summer Learning Week is a week-long
celebration dedicated to elevating the importance of keeping kids learning, safe, and healthy every summer, ensuring
they return to school in the fall ready to succeed.
In honor of this special week, members of CAP’s staff, board, and action teams shared their summer learning stories about a memory from their childhood, summer achievements, and an amazing moment from a summer program.
“Summertime Relationship Building” -Jesse Gagnon, Children’s Programs Specialist, Foothills Park & Recreation District
One of the realities of working in a summer camp environment is that many families depend on summer learning activities Monday through Friday, week after week, summer after summer. As a staff member, this means that you can build relationships with children year after year as they move through your programs. You can watch them graduate from a Hoppers program that serves five- and six-year-olds, to the teen camp that goes on field trips every day, to becoming counselors themselves once they are old enough. For many kids, a summer camp may be the only time that they get to go ice skating, or swimming, or go on field trips to places such as the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
These are my favorite moments as a camp administrator, watching the kiddo that might be anxious on their first day of camp, but then is showing the other kids around by the end of the summer. Or the kids that take their first set of swim lessons on their first year of camp, struggle to feel comfortable in the water and later become the kiddo you need to almost force out of the water after a couple of years because they love it so much. Summer learning programs provide a valuable community service, but they also allow kids to have experiences they might not get the opportunity for otherwise. They can explore science, art, or the outdoors and develop their interests while building lasting friendships with their fellow campers.
“From Camper to Supervisor” – Amber Stowe, Children and Youth Programs Supervisor, Foothills Park & Recreation District
From childhood to adulthood, I am a true believer in the impact of summer camp! It was 1980 when I was a young-year-old girl growing up in Flagstaff, Arizona. I was raised attending a local childcare center while both of my parents worked, but at age 6 I had physically and emotionally outgrown ‘WeeCare’. My parents found a summer camp for me to attend that was operated by the local recreation department. The camp took place at a covered outdoor ice arena hidden down a dirt road in the middle of the woods. The facility was used for ice skating in the winter months but thawed out in the summer and mostly went unused until the summer camp kids took over! My childhood memories bring me back to playing hide and seek in the pine trees, learning how to safely build a campfire with leaders of a local boy scout troop, and making nature-based crafts such as peanut butter bird feeders out of pinecones we found lying on the ground.
Fast forward to several years later, after receiving a degree in Recreation Management from Northern Arizona University, I am now the Supervisor of the Children’s Programs Department for a Park & Recreation District in Colorado. We serve over 1,100 children annually in a variety of settings including summer camps just like the one I participated in decades ago. It is exciting to see young faces come into our programs and know that they will grow up with memories of spending time in the camp programs that I am now in charge of creating. From personal experience, I know how much summer camps nurture self-awareness, self-esteem, responsible decision making, peer relationship building, social-emotional skills, and so much more. The favorite part of my job is nurturing young staff, knowing they are the ones who truly make a difference in the lives of the youth in our community.
“Memories of YMCA Summers” – Jennifer Giambi, Communications Manager, Colorado Afterschool Partnership
Cambria and I were the best of friends. Wesley and I were the best of friends. Nina and I were the best of friends. We were all the best of friends, and we met during our summers spent at Houston’s Trotter Family YMCA. There was a little something unique about our friendships that made our bond stronger. All our mothers were single parents and because of the YMCA’s support, we received the opportunity to attend a low-cost day camp that offered a safe space to learn and be active. No doubt, a comfort to our mothers.
I spent four summers going on field trips, learning to roller skate, swimming, playing sports, arts and crafts, and numerous other indoor and outdoor activities. One summer I even had the chance to meet Grammy-award winner Rod Stewart on the Y’s soccer field. A story I still tell to this day, many, many years later. My summer day camp experiences were full of learning, adventure, play, and friendships that made each summer so memorable that I am still a YMCA member more than 20 years later.
Looking back, I am sure it was not an easy decision for my single mother to send me to the YMCA summer day camp. But, in my eyes, it was one of the best decisions she made of my childhood. I was lucky enough to spend my summers making connections, forming friendships, staying physically active, and developing life-long skills.
National Summer Learning Week takes place July 12-16, 2021. To learn more, visit www.summerlearning.org/summer-learning-week.