NEW YORK—A great big “thank you” resounded from a gym full of little voices at a Brooklyn summer camp on Monday, July 21. The children received a $40,000 grant for their summer program at the School Settlement Association (SSA).
The grant from Elite Learning of Brooklyn will go toward enhancing summer camp field trips. “We go on summer camp trips every summer,” said Luis Manzi, SSA’s Associate Executive Director. “But we don’t go on fantastic trips; we go on trips we can afford.” SSA is the oldest settlement house in Brooklyn that provides a variety of educational and social services.
The students have traditionally taken the subway to many of their field trips. “As wonderful as the MTA is in New York, it is a little scary to take 80 kids on the subway,” Manzi said. “This grant not only allows us to take buses to our trips, which is not only quicker but more fun,” he said. “We can sing songs on the bus; people tend to frown upon songs on the subway. ” Furthermore, they would now be able to afford paid features at the Bronx Zoo, according to Manzi.
Elite Learning is a Brooklyn-based non-profit group that brings together inner-city students and local resources such as museums and cultural centers. Their Passport to Brooklyn program introduces grade school and middle school students to institutions in Brooklyn.
At the beginning of the school year each child in grades five and eight receives a passport, which they will fill out during a six-stop tour of cultural institutions in their borough. Afterwards, they receive tickets to those places to share with their families. School Settlement trips include excursions to Six Flags Great Adventure, The American Museum of Natural History, the New York Aquarium, Liberty Science Center and the Bronx Zoo.
The SSA and St. Nicholas Neighborhood Preservation Corporation sponsor a total of eight summer camps in the Williamsburg, Brooklyn area in addition to various community services. The programs serve about 800 children aged 5 to 14. Its instructors and counselors are young people who often have grown up in the program themselves.
Sixteen-year-old Jose Agudelo from Aviation High School has worked as a counselor for two years, and attended the program since he was ten. Agudelo said the program is unlike any other. “We’re more family-oriented,” Agudelo said. “We know all the staff, we’re familiar with all the parents, and no one is a stranger here.”
Denise Galasso of Elite Learning remembered her own experiences roller-skating and doing arts and crafts at SSA. Galasso is one of many family members who have grown up in the program. “My mother went here, my mother’s sisters went here…I have 26 first cousins; every one of them was in School Settlement House,” she said.
A typical week at an SSA summer camp consists of three field trip days and two in-house days packed with crafts, gym, theater, and literacy programs that begin at 8 a.m. and end at 6 p.m.
In attendance to present the $40,000 check were Councilmember Diana Rena of Brooklyn and State Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol.