An interview with Casey Wedding of the Napa County Office of Education.
Tell us about your program and its audience.
Our camp is called After Class Enrichment (ACE) Summer Camp and has been running for three years. Our program receives 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding from the U.S. Department of Education for a five week summer camp. Kids can take classes in sports, digital arts, swimming, cooking, crime scene investigation (CSI), and bike safety.
Between 10-15 middle school students take the bike safety course each week. Younger kids take a walking safety course which concludes with a field trip where students walk two miles round-trip to a local movie theater.
The amount of funding received is based on free/reduced school lunches. Summer camp is free and kids get free breakfast and lunch. Our camp gives away helmets and partners with Bay Area BikeMobile for bicycle repair.
Did you face any challenges in implementing this program and how did you overcome them?
Promoting the camp was difficult at first, but word of mouth helps. Previous rounds of funding only allowed the camp to open from 9 am – 2 om which did not work for parents. Hours have expanded and the camp is now open from 8 am – 3:30 pm--a much easier schedule for the families we serve.
How does your story align with the results achieved from your program?
Summer camp is aimed for middle school kids. Those kids often look after younger siblings during the day in the summers while their parents are at work. This prevented many children from joining the camp as they could not leave their sibling and their families could not afford child care. We added room for “sibling summer camps” for younger siblings, allowing the camp to grow.
We also created a junior counselor program for those transitioning from middle to high school. We conduct a six week training prior to camp for the junior counselors who treat this as a job and are able to learn the skills needed to prepare for then they do get a job, such as getting to work on time and leadership.
For others who may want to implement a similar program, what advice would you give them?
Relationships and partnerships with locals and organizations are very helpful. I was lucky enough to grow up in Napa County so I knew about many of the resources and groups we have partnered with. Knowing that there are so many groups that want to help with your mission is important, so sustaining personal relationships can go a long way.