BALTIMORE — Forty students from the Pigtown area located in Southwest Baltimore are enjoying hiking, swimming, trips to the Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C. and the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as well as other fun and educational activities thanks to an outreach camp operated by Paul’s Place, Inc. that seeks to expose low-income children to experiences outside of their communities.
The “Summer Outreach Camp for Kids” (SOCKS) helps to expand the horizons of at-risk students. The summer camp works with children in the community for eight weeks, providing them with wholesome, fun activities and memorable experiences.
Paul’s Place, Inc. a community outreach center in Washington Village/Pigtown, has been operating the camp since the 1980s. Paul’s Place serves more than 80,000 guests annually, providing programs, services and support that strengthen individuals and families, foster hope, personal dignity and growth.
“The goal of the Summer Outreach Camp for Kids is to expose them to things outside of their neighborhood, and build teamwork and camaraderie,” said Sadie M. Smith, director of programs at Paul’s Place. “Many of the children come from areas near our facility. Many come from single-parent families, may be struggling academically, and are from low-income homes. We want to get them outside of the blight so they can see the beauty that is outside and to expose them to different things.”
For the last three years, students have enjoyed a trip to Woodberry Crossings, a facility with 100 acres of woods, hiking paths, streams and animals. The facility provides the student campers with the opportunity to broaden their vision and understanding of life through meeting and interacting with people, animals and the natural world.
“Without the camp, many of these students might never know that this world exists,” said Smith. “Many come from homes that have no transportation, and little income to get around. The other advantage of the camp is the continued learning, and to be part of a group that is supportive and offers academic and team components. Our camp counselors, Paul’s Place staff, and the churches we work with also are role-models to the kids, and that has a huge impact as well.”
Smith added, “We also offer academics over the summer. Many students get out of school in June and are hanging outside. There is a lot of data out there to support that this causes reading and math loss over the summer. We want to offer academics so there is no loss in these critical areas during the course of the year.”
Through a partnership with the Enoch Pratt Library, Paul’s Place brings campers to the library throughout the summer and actively encourages them to read books to help prepare them for school in the fall. Last summer the campers read over 1,000 books.
In addition, Paul’s Place recently expanded the summer camp program to middle school and high school students. The high school program collaborates with “Art with a Heart” to create unique pieces of marketable art that is sold at “ArtScape,” the annual arts and music festival held in Baltimore City.
This component provides the high school students with real-life work experience for their resumes. The middle school program is a three-week program that consists of five days at an overnight YMCA camp, one week of enrichment activities such as sports, jewelry-making, swimming and dance, and one week of field trips to various sites outside of Baltimore.
The five-week high school camp also started on June 24, while the middle school camp started on July 22. According to Smith, funding for the elementary, middle, and high school camps comes from private funding and friends of Paul’s Place.
“We are grateful for the funding,” she said. “It is a fabulous place for kids to be at during the summer.”
Smith encourages interested families to call in April to begin the application process as the camps fill up quickly.
For more information about Paul’s Place summer camps, call Christian Morley at 410-625-0775 or visit: www.paulsplaceoutreach.org.