Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Afterschool goes to Brandeis

I was sorry to learn the the Halloween party at Emanuel was cancelled because of Superstorm Sandy. I was trying to think of something nice to do for the children to make up for it. So I invited them over to Brandeis the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. We had a small meal of grilled cheese, an apple, hot apple cider, hot chocolate, and cupcakes. The kids seemed to have a great time.

Sr. Joanne was very happy for them to see the Brandeis campus, and add another college to the list of places they have been. It's never to early to put the college bug in a young scholar's ear, right?

I enjoyed meeting the children I did not know and catching up with my former campers. They are a bright and cheerful group, and well behaved to boot. It was also nice to see my old boss, Mrs. Grayson along with Sr. Joanne and Lorraine "Ma" Smith. Before the children had to leave we all said one thing we were thankful for. It was a nice time of fellowship in the Thanksgiving Spirit.

Credit where credit is due...
I want to thank my friends Mehraj, Dan, Ari, and Ross for the use of their apartment. I would have hosted the children in my own room, but I live in a dorm and have only a single person bedroom with not nearly enough space for 13 pleople. I also want to thank my friend Deepti who helped me prepare food, clean the apartment before the children arrived, and helped clean up after they left. It is because of them that we were able to have such a nice time.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Beginning to a beautiful end

When trying to take the time to sit down and write this, it seemed like it was one of the hardest things to do. I had convinced myself that I would do it in due time. However, obviously by the date of this you can tell this is the only later I have come to know. In trying to really understand and delve into my experiences as first as an after school member, to a church goer, to a camp counselor, to now...there are a lot of things to be grateful and thankful for. Most of all though, it is for one person to say they believe in you and have that change your whole world.

As an after school member I hardly really remember coming to, but what I do remember was learning how to double dutch, which at the time seemed like the most complex things. Jumping with one rope was in my past, for two was always better than one. I remember the van ride that picked us up from Mission Grammar. I remember never wanting to do homework...I mean I know the reason for me coming is to get work done, but I could always do it at home. I never understood why we had to be quiet during homework time either, I mean multitasking was a specialty of all children. We could possibly do homework and converse. And for a long time I could not understand how a women who was shorter than me could make one sound and quietness would hush any mouth and even as short as she was, she always knew when one person in a room full of 30 kids, was still talking. But many days when we would be hushed, she was not telling us only to be quiet, rather she was telling us stories of what she wanted each of us to be and that was greatness. I for one do not remember a story she told, if you ask me now, but I remember asking why? Why was it so important for us to become great. I mean were we destined to become anything we wanted and she wanted us to become great. What was so good about that? It was more than becoming great, rather she was probably for most, the first person to say to a child how much she believed they could amount to anything they put their mind to. Maybe for me as these questions arised in my own mind, I wanted to make her proud. So when she promised she would always hold a spot for me as a camp counselor, I made sure I took her up on that offer. Even though I had switched schools, had only seen her in church every Sunday, she reminded me every Sunday of her promise; asking me my age every Sunday as well.

When I started in 2004, 14 years of age I was by far the most nervous there. I didn't know what she or the person I would be working with expected. Luckily my first year I had the privilege of working with Andy and Dominque. They showed me by example what they were doing and I followed, always asking if it was correct, not wanting to mess up. After that year had passed it got easier. The next year Ben came and I was still working alongside Dominque as Andy left and it was much easier to get comfortable. The year after that I was now in charge of my own group. I think I asked Sister Mary about five different times, if she was sure. I told her I was fine working with Dominque. She looked at me and said, "You are ready. You can't keep walking in the shadows of someone else. You must do it on your own now and I believe you can. Now stop asking me if I am sure. You think I don't know what I am doing?" I sure did not want to be the one to tell her she didn't know what she was doing and she was wrong so I came in that summer prepared...well over prepared but by the second week I got the hang of it and I had the confidence not only to lead my group but also train someone else who may like me have to take my place one day.

Throughout the years, Ben and I took the train together discussing the day and the kids, how they had their own personalities. We discussed what worked that day, what didn't, what we could expect the next day, the next week, and even the next year. And as the years went on and we have seen every person come in and go out; we've had some hard years and some questionable years, but always knowing in the back of our mind one day we would have to be the ones who would not come in again, rather we would be the one who would go out. And this year we will. It is hard knowing the comfort of having a job that is so good. It is a job that is challenging but we smile more than if I was working any other job. We get more hugs than if I was even holding a "free hugs" sign during Christmas at Downtown Crossing. We are greeted most days with smiles and even though Ms. Grayson has her ways, you can clearly see even through her own sarcastic manner she enjoys what she does. So trading the smiles, the screams, the singing, the years, and the warmth of hugs, to enter the "real world," I can only be grateful for the memories as those. I can be appreciative for getting to know a heroine like Sister Mary and even as her memory lives on and children come in and out of the program many of them are too young to know the woman who the camp now is dedicated to. We can only hope through the shared memories of laughs and bringing her up and the few who do know her carry on. We can only hope that she is never forgotten, for a person like her, can never be forgotten. I can pray that she watched over me finding a place like hers and hopefully my love for children will not fade.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

End of Camp Video

Well camp ended last Friday. We are still working on loading the videos from the talent show, but here is the slideshow showing many of the different activities we did and the trips we took. Enjoy.

End of an Era

I first started working at the Summer Camp program in 2005. I didn't really decide to do it so much as Sr. Mary made me do it. I was 14 years old at the time, and it was my first real job. She placed me with Mrs. Grayson's group (Group 1, the 4-6 year olds) and told me to do whatever Mrs. Grayson told me and to learn from Mrs. Grayson. So I did the best I could, tried to keep kids in line and make their days fun. I got to know how complicated a "he said-she said" argument between kindergarteners can be. That summer I made some money, had a good time, and gained some experience.

The next summer, when I was 15, I returned to summer camp by my own decision. I worked under Mrs. Grayson with Group 1 again. It wasn't until I was 16 years old, that I was ready to lead the group of young children. As time passed, Sr. Mary stepped down as program director and left Mrs. Grayson in charge. Sr. Mary still told me to do whatever Mrs. Grayson said and to learn from her. And that's what I've been doing these past 7 summers.

The summer camp program has meant a lot to me. I have gained many skills from the duties I had to perform. I have learned how to handle not only young children, but my peers better because of the summer camp. The camp has helped me to grow and mature as I went through my high school, and now my college years. I tell anyone who asks that it is the best summer job in the world. My friends have had all sorts of summer jobs and experiences, but I wouldn't have traded places with them for an instant.

Of course I can't talk about working at this summer camp without mentioning Khadija. She started working here the year before I did, and so she has 8 years under her belt. That means combined we have 15 years of experience! We had known each other through church before we started working at the camp, but we got to know each other better through the summer camp. Throughout my seven years at this program, the only faces I have seen ever summer in the staff are Mrs. Grayson, Renee, and Khadija. I wouldn't say that we are pros, but I would say that we have developed into competent, fun, and engaging counselors.

Sadly for both of us, this was our last summer. We had both been saying for the past few years that "this summer might be our last one," but this time it is true. She has graduated Salem College in North Carolina and is off into the adult world. I will be studying abroad in Lima, Peru next Spring and their semester runs through July, meaning that I won't be able to work at the camp next summer. The summer after that I will have graduated college and I too will be exploring the adult world. I don't know if we are moving on to "bigger and better things," but we are moving on to the next thing. Not because we are tired of camp, but because it's just time for us to go on. I know that next summer, I will miss camp dearly, and I am sure that camp will miss us. But I am equally sure that the campers will be in good hands.

It's been great to meet new kids each summer, and it's been even better to see returning campers as they grow through the years. Khadija and I have been at this camp for almost a decade, so it is the end of and era at the summer camp. It is also the end of an era in our lives. All we can say is thank you. Thank you Sr. Mary, for seeing the potential in us and making us believe in it. Thank you Mrs. Grayson for showing us how mature and skilled we could be. Thank you campers for not giving us too much trouble. And finally, thank you God for all those summers.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Puppet Show

Last year we added a new field trip to the schedule. It was a trip to see a puppet show, and it was my favorite trip of the summer. I was very pleased to see it on the trip schedule again this year, and Keayra and I had a lot of fun with the 10 campers we chaperoned on the trip to see the puppets today at the Puppet Showplace Theatre in Brighton.

Children's Museum

We went to the Children's Museum yesterday!

B.U. Dance Workshop

This post is two days late but don't worry, the memory of yesterday's visit is still fresh in my mind. The campers always love the B.U. (Boston University) dance workshop. It's only 45 minutes long, but it's 45 minutes of movement games, music, and of course dance. All the campers think they are Michael Jackson when it comes to dance skills, and on Tuesday they had the chance to prove it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Morning Praise

Every day at Summer Camp is unique. With three different age groups heading off to different trips and participating in different activities it's hard to lock down a specific schedule that works for each day. However one thing we always do is morning praise.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Slave Quarters

July 30, 2012

Today the campers got to go to the slave quarters located in Medford, Massachusetts which was built in the early 1700s. Although, we had no idea the details of how to get there, but with even the smallest of directions, we could figure it out moment by moment. Not one child, ever knew I had not been there either.

From the moment we arrived the campers were very intrigued by the things our tour guide was saying. They had a whole lot of questions and many of their questions got answered. First we went into the house on the owners of the slaves in which they were wealthy for their trading of sugar in which at the time, was a lavish business to get into. Issac Royall inherited millions by the time he was at the age of 18 and the ownership of slaves made living in luxury much easier. They were one of the richest families at the time. We learned that one could show how rich they were not only by how many slaves they owned, but the house they kept as well. There were a few additions to the house made to increase the size.

Friday, July 27, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade

I can't pretend it wasn't a disappointing start to the day. It was grey and dreary outside with the threat of rain. To add to that, Groups 2 and 3 were not able to go to the State House today like they had planned due to a scheduling mix up. Even on the disciplinary side of the day it was a tough start. By ten o'clock two of my seven campers were in time-out for disrespecting their fellow campers. It seemed like it was going to be one of those long, drawn out days where everyone ends up on the wall at least once and we are more than happy to leave once three o'clock rolls around. But it was not one of those days.

For Group 1 the turn around in the day came when we finished rehearsing our play (there's a talent show coming up on the last day of camp, August 3) and went into the hall. There we found some card games that Lloyd thoughtfully left out for our use. We had indoor free time, with some campers coloring, some learning to play Go Fish, and others playing a somewhat rowdy game of Wonderball.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Natural Historians

Today the entire camp went the Harvard Museum of Natural History. It was a cool trip for me because I had never been to the museum before. We split into small groups to tour the museum. One of the great things about the museum is that almost everything is displayed in a class case, so there it is almost impossible for excited children to ruin special exhibits by touching them.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Simple Day for Those of Us Back at Camp

Today Group 2 went to tour the Taza Chocolate factory today...unfortunately we couldn't all go (I was sorely disappointed that I couldn't position myself as a chaperone for the trip). So those of us left behind at the parish center decided to have a fun outdoor morning at our favorite local playground (behind the police headquarters). We had a race around the playground and spent some time playing tag. After lunch we chilled out in the church and watched The Smurfs movie.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Group 4

Anyone familiar with the Sr. Mary Hart Children's Summer Program in the past few years knows that there are 3 groups of campers. However, there when one considers the entirety of the camp, one realizes there is a fourth group, also known as the counselors. There are 7 of us ranging in ages from 15-22. And we truly are a group of our own. We challenge the campers to games of 4-square, basketball, and keepaway. We are a strong team that does its best to keep the children in line. That being said, I'm sure we get on Mrs. Grayson's nerves at times. This "Group 4" dynamic is one of the strengths of the summer camp. At camp, it's not only about making sure the campers have a good summer and use their minds, but also about training leaders among the staff. This is a reminder of Sr. Mary's dedication to all 18 years of childhood, not just the elementary school years. She recognized that teenagers have different needs for their development, and by providing many teens with their first summer job, she helped meet that need for a chance for responsibility. In Group 4 we are charged with responsibility, but we are still allowed to embarce the child within us, still able to spend the summer having fun at a great summer camp.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Museum of Science

July 23, 2012

Today the children in group 3 and a select few of group 2 took a trip to the Science Museum. Each year, you never know which of them will be far more interested in the exhibit as opposed to the others. However, today many of them were very intrigued with the exhibits we did get to see. We started off first at the new Mummy exhibit, which allowed many of them to try and understand the time frame of the Egyptians and most importantly their spiritual beliefs. Many of them needed clarification on what it meant as the afterlife. Explaining to them, that Egyptians believed that after death, one's soul would live on and whether or not they lived well was their significance in body on earth. After allowing them time to all take a picture on the camel, provided in the exhibit, we ventured on to the mathematics section in the red wing. This by far made them understand probability, illusion, inventors and creators of all that we know today, based on the forefathers who paved such a road for us to embark on. We continued onward to the space equipment, which also allowed them to go into an interactive space shuttle and lay and see just how astronauts live while in space.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Science in Action: Yogurt Making

I have been asking the kids to save their milk cartons for the past week. The reason-we were going to make yogurt. Yesterday was the day to put together the recipe. While Kearya heated up milk to 200 degrees on the stove, I explained the science of yogurt making to the campers. Most were disgusted to learn that yogurt is made by adding bacteria to milk, though, they soon learned that some bacteria (like the bacteria in yogurt) is good for human health. The campers walked through the kitchen to watch as the milk was heated, and then cooled. Each camper prepared a carton of the milk with a bacteria culture to make the yogurt. Then the cartons were carefully sealed with duct tape and placed inside the fridge to keep cold. It takes 8 hours for the milk to become yogurt, so sometime today the campers will be enjoying a  delicious and nutritious, home made snack, and they'll be able to explain how it was made and why it is good to eat.


The Heat Breaks!

It was excruciatingly hot and muggy yesterday morning. There was no breeze to move the uncomfortable mass of air pressing on us like a blanket. It was so hot that even the campers were avoiding the sunlight and moving less than usual. So we changed into bathing suits and walked to the playground behind the police station, where we went to cool off last week. The counselors armed themselves with iced coffees from the Ruggles Station Dunkin Donuts, and we found ourselves having a ton of fun as some campers ran through the sprinkler and others played on the playground. After a little while a basketball game of sorts broke out on the court behind the playground. One five year old camper impressed us all as he made numerous shots on a regulation height basketball hoop. We spent the entire morning there. The counselors and kids were all playing together, and it was so much fun that we almost forgot to go back to camp in time for lunch.

After lunch was when Mother Nature decided to be kind and dropped the temperature by 10 degrees. Wind began to blow, and by the time it was time to go rain was pouring down. Running through the rain may not be the most dignified way to travel, but it sure felt nice after dragging through the heat for so many days.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Canobie Lake

The trip to Canobie Lake Park in Salem, NH is probably the biggest highlight of the summer for the campers. The trip is funded by the Knights of Colombus, who sponsor a number of camp groups to go enjoy the theme park. For those of you unfamiliar with how the trip works, we take a chartered bus from the parish center to Canobie Lake. There we take a picture with the Knights, and then they give us our tickets. Once inside the park, each camper and staffer is given a budget of $10 to spend on whatever they want (souvenirs, food, soda, toys, etc.). The counselors for Group 1 hold the money for their young charges (we don't want them to put their money down when they get on a ride and forget to pick it up). The campers are divided into small groups and taken around the park by an individual counselor, usually there are 4 or 5 campers to 1 counselor. That's when the fun happens.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Zoo Day

Today was free admissions day at the Franklin Park Zoo. So we changed all the campers into our new Sr. Mary Hart Children's Program T-shirts and caught the number 45 bus from Ruggles to the Zoo. A bus ride is always a big event with 30 children. There's the trouble of getting them all seats, keeping the noise volume to a bearable level for the other passengers and dealing with any disputes that may arise between campers during the ride. But the great thing about public transportation is the potential for interaction with interesting and enjoyable people. Here's one of our campers who spent much of the bus ride chatting with the lady in the hat. Perhaps there is a lesson here for us adults when we see a child so easily and willingly interacting with our fellow bus passengers.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Swan Boats, Frog Pond, and Campers in the City

One of the benefits of being an urban day camp is the easy access we have to places like the Boston Common and the Public Garden. We picked up the number 43 bus at ten in the morning and didn't come back to camp until two in the afternoon. We took a ride on the swan boats, which was a popular attraction for summer camp groups. We had to wait almost fifteen minutes as many other groups  boarded the boats before us. It was the first time I have seen all the boats in use at one time. It was a nice ride around the little pond, and the campers in my group especially enjoyed watching and attempting to speak to the ducks that swam around us.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Beating the Heat

It was a hot day in Boston. We took the campers out on a long walk before it got too hot to bring them around the neighborhood. There may have been one or two complaints of sore feet as we walked past the Reggie Lewis center, but all complaints were forgotten when we returned to camp. There Mrs. Grayson was waiting with nice cold ice cream for all the campers and staff. We sat in the shade of the tree and enjoyed the ice cream, waiting for the story teller to come.

At 11:15 the story teller from Read Boston came to spend a half an hour telling the children stories. This is always a good experience, and the story tellers are very energetic and devoted to their performance. The campers, especially the youngest ones, love it. To end the story teller's visit, each child gets a free book to take home courtesy of the Storymobile. The campers thanked the story teller and the representative from Read Boston before opening up their new books.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Camper Perspective: Group 2 is Great

One of our hopes for this blog is that it not only reflect the perspective of the staff, but also of the children. We seek to showcase their work and improve their self esteem as they see their best efforts published on this blog. In the interest of showing their work as honestly as possible, only minimal edits have been made to the child's work.


Journal Entries
Summer camp is fun because you can play. Then, we sing song and play again. I'm in group two. In group 2 you are first to do fun things and group 1 is too. But not group 3, they have to work hard. You get 30 minutes to play. Snack is the best because it's yummy. Then, we go to computers. Then if you are not home you play again.

Today we play 2 fun game. I just play the game that was called snail. 2, 3, or 4, people can play. Also jacks. There were some games that were also fun. There are 2 ladies that show me the games. It was the best!

Camp T-Shirts

Thanks to our friends over at Super Flash Tees in West Roxbury, we have these camp t-shirts for the children. As an experienced camp counselor, I can tell you firsthand how valuable these t-shirts will be on field trips - it's much easier to see all your campers in a crowd when they are matching.


Historic New England

Happy belated Independence Day! Boston is known as the cradle of liberty in this country. It was the site of many a protest and home to some of the founding fathers. The Revolutionary War started in Lexington, only a few miles away. Historic New England is an organization that seeks to preserve historical landmarks and artifacts in the region and educate the public about the lives of New Englanders from generations past. Each year they come to the summer camp and spend an hour with the campers. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Summer Learning Gain: Group 1's Quiet Morning of Learning

Summer learning loss is the loss in academic skills and knowledge over the course of summer vacation. It affects all students, but it affects students of low socioeconomic status the most. According to a study on summer learning loss, "Two-thirds of the academic achievement gap in reading and language found among high school students has been explained through the learning loss that occurs during the summer months of the primary school years." This is a serious phenomenon in the American school system, but it can be combated. By engaging children in educational activities, such as reading, writing, science and math projects, summer learning loss is made less severe. Our summer camp is not just about fun in the sun, but making sure that our children return to school in September without having forgotten too much over the summer. Our goal is to combat summer learning loss, and promote summer learning gain.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Basketball Hoop

It was a sad day last summer when a bulldozer came and knocked down the basketball hoop that stood in the St. Katharine Drexel parish center parking lot. That hoop had seen many games and was a prominent part of the property. The hoop was knocked down to make room for a parking lot for Boston Police Officers, which is a worthy cause indeed, but it's absence still left a void in outdoor playtime at the camp. The police were kind enough to donate a basketball hoop to the Sr. Mary Hart Children's Programs and today (after 3 hours) Lloyd and I put it together.  The hoop, which created a great deal of interest as we were putting it together, was a hit as soon as the campers came outside in the afternoon.


Reading Time..

Reading time, is one of my favorite times of the day. Either the kids or I would pick a book for me to read. Just today we read, Don't Let the Pigeon drive the bus by Mo Willems, which the kids really enjoyed. A new thing we're trying this year, Once or twice a week, group three which is the older kids will read a book to the younger kids in group one. Then the younger kids will read a book to the older kids. Today was our first day trying it, it was very successful. We had a kid from group three pair up with a kid from group one and read a book of there choice. The older kids were great role models for the younger kids and the younger kids were very respectful to the older kids when they were reading. afterward the kids from each group would discuss what happened in the book and what they liked and disliked about it.


Go to to see pictures of the young and old children reading together (as well as lots of other photos of camp activites). We will be posting plenty of camp photos there.

Monday, July 2, 2012

First Day of Camp

As the bell from the church down the street tolled out 9 o'clock, the staffers lined up the children for the first morning praise of the summer. The day opened with a prayer, asking God to keep the children safe, to encourage respect, to let us have fun and listen well to our counselors. After the prayer the children learned some of the songs they will be singing each morning (hopefully video of the singing will be up in the future). The next few hours were filled with name games and explanations of the rules and introductions to daily activities such as computer time, reading, and journaling. All of these things, and more, will be published on this blog so that you can see Sr. Mary Hart's legacy in action as the campers explore, have fun, and learn.

It was a fun-filled day (even if there were a few time-outs handed down) that set a good tone for the next five weeks of summer.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fundraiser Success

Four weeks ago we held the first annual Sr. Mary's Children Fundraiser for the Sr. Mary Hart Children's Programs at St. Katharine Drexel Parish. The event was held in the church hall at St. Katharine's and was a huge success. Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of countless people who knew and loved Sr. Mary, we raised almost $25,000.

This event was planned and put together by a committee of devoted people, including a number of young people that have worked in the programs. Sr. Mary's spiritual presence was evident as her mentees spoke about her care and dedication to them, which in turn taught them care and dedication to others in their own lives. The event shows us that Sr. Mary's greatest strength may have been her ability to raise up leaders to follow in her footsteps and continue her work. 

The Summer Camp starts July 2 (next week!) and runs until August 3. Please check back to this blog regularly, we will have postings of work by the children and staff of the program and a record of the summer.