A curriculum focused on math, literacy, and social-emotional learning. Extracurricular activities, including dance, art, nature exploration, swim safety, weekly field trips, and daily recreation. These are among the unforgettable and transformational camp experiences that Camp St. Vincent offered its campers.
Entering its 112th year, Camp St. Vincent is the only free summer camp dedicated to serving children experiencing homelessness in the Baltimore region. The camp addresses the negative impact of homelessness on children’s unique academic, social and emotional needs. The camp recently wrapped up its latest session, which was ran from June 24, 2019 to August 9, 2019 at Patterson Park.
“For children who are experiencing homelessness, this is a fresh air camp,” said Olutunde Clarke, Sr. Director of Early Childhood Services for St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore. “The camp also offers a strong educational component because the children sometimes suffer setbacks because of their housing transition. We work with them around reading, math and social skills. We also offer things like dance and visual arts to keep them engaged.”
Camp St. Vincent’s unique curriculum is designed to mitigate summer learning loss. According to Greene, last year 91 percent of campers maintained or advanced their reading level and 93 percent maintained or advanced their math skill level over the eight weeks. The camp also meets the unique social emotional needs of campers who gain acceptance from their peers and trained counselors who assist in providing a sense of normalcy.
“Our goal is for them to come together as a group; but not around homelessness and not to be judged by their circumstances,” said Clarke. “Overall, we see a general release. They look relieved and like happy, functioning young children.
“They can come here and not be judged. They also create a lot of great friendships. You have the campers and camp counselors who are recruited from high schools across the city. There is also another layer of adult camp instructors. It’s a beautiful tie-in. The campers can aspire to goals and discuss high school. They make very good connections.”
St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore is a leading provider of community services
to people suffering from the effects of hunger, homelessness and poverty. Their mission is to ensure those impacted by poverty have the skills, resources, and opportunity to achieve their full potential.
“In addition to being free, this camp also offers a credentialed staff,” said Greene. “That’s virtually unheard of for a free camp, and we see that as a part of what we provide to the community. We also provide free meals and snacks. Camp St. Vincent also offers transpiration as well. Kids are picked up from shelters and dropped off.”
St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore also operates Camp Discovery, an eight-week summer program serving more than 180 Head Start children, ages three to five. The camp features curricula and activities that are specifically designed to address the impact of homelessness and/or poverty on academic, social and emotional development.
The organization’s Head Start program offers educational, health and social services for more than 725 pre-school children and their families to ensure their readiness for school. The program is staffed with fully credentialed teachers at seven sites in Baltimore City.
“Each site has its own niche or its own identity ranging from nature-based to tech information and language,” said Clarke. “Those we help, would face a serious situation when the school year ends. Our camps help in that regard, and also prepares the children with school readiness.”
According to Clarke, St. Vincent de Paul will be opening a new site at
Arlington Elementary School. The modernized Arlington Elementary School will open to students, staff, and the community in September. A ribbon cutting will take place at the school on Wednesday, August 28, 2019.
Arlington Elementary will host St. Vincent de Paul’s Early Childhood Development Center with Head Start and Early Head Start programs.
“Our goal is to give people exposed to poverty the resources they need,” she said. “We want to help them pull out of that situation. The camp allows the children to have positive experiences and learn. Head Start helps the parents to work, pursue educational goals and maintain employment. Our programs give them a chance to be self-sufficient.”
St. Vincent de Paul Head Start registration is now open for the 2019-2020 school year. For more information about St. Vincent de Paul’s programs, visit: www.vincentbaltimore.org.