Children donning their bright yellow Camp Adventure! t-shirts spread throughout Bastian Elementary School on the south side of Houston. Peering into the classroom windows that morning, I could see that children were actively engaged in dissecting owl pellets, wearing rubber gloves and using tweezers to search for hidden bones to collect in baggies. I peeked into a class and heard a child proclaim that he had discovered a claw, to which the others students shouted, “Let me see!” I grinned and closed the door to continue my observations.
I met up with a group of children walking down the hall being led by their volunteer teachers. Upon seeing me, a six-year-old little girl with a round face and big braids in her hair skipped over. She smiled wide, causing her missing front tooth to be exposed, and introduced herself. I replied accordingly with, “I’m Miss Julie.” After a brief pause, she stated matter-of-factly, “My father is in jail. He kicked my mom in the face.” She then grabbed my hand tightly, holding it while talking to me until we reached her assigned classroom. I watched her stroll back to her desk, smiling and chatting with her new friends. She hugged a volunteer before she took her seat.
I lingered in the doorway, watching the interactions of the volunteers and children. It warmed my heart to see the little girl and the other children so happy and having fun, eager to learn. Yet, I continue to recount her words and ruminate about the circumstances and harsh reality of her life. Unfortunately, she is only one of many children in our community who need our help in paving the way to a brighter future. I remain encouraged that, together, we will continue to make a meaningful difference in their lives.
Camp Adventure! is just one piece of an important puzzle to mitigate the summer learning slide and help more children become good readers. For the children and all involved, it meant so much more. I am deeply grateful to our partners and the hundreds of volunteers for making Camp Adventure! a meaningful and unforgettable experience for the more than 300 children who participated during the four-week period.
I hope you enjoy the stories and the pictures in this edition of our newsletter. Thank you for taking time to read and be a part of our important cause.
Julie Baker Finck, Ph.D.