(Photo via Flickr user Peter Miller, used under a Creative Commons license)
Summer is right around the corner (or right now if you’ve spent any time outside this past week).
For kids, it may seem like the perfect time to forget all responsibilities and spend every day like it’s your last, but Rev. PJ Craig of The Advocate Center for Culture and Education (ACCE) believes that summer can be an opportunity to grow for underserved North Philadelphia youth.
It’s why ACCE has three free summer programs for elementary, middle and high school students focused on building leadership skills. They’re the College Boot Camp for rising 11th and 12th graders, Middle School and High School Leadership Conferences and the Around the World Elementary Summer Camp.
And don’t think of it as a summer school where kids are sitting in a classroom for hours every day (like this reporter had to do as a young kid). Around the World has 8- to 10-year-olds learning about different countries for a week in August. They’ll learn dances from other regions, eat ethnic foods and get to take home three books from the featured countries.
“It’s just one way to open up the world to kids, especially kids who haven’t traveled far outside their neighborhoods,” Craig said.
College Boot Camp for rising 11th or 12th graders is run by a college professor who will take students to visit seven universities around the Greater Philly region. By the end of the two weeks, students will have two completed Common Application essays, information on financial aid resources and advice on how to not only get to college but through it.
“It’s about ‘to and through’ as a minority student typically going into predominantly white spaces and how to navigate that, find resources and advocate for yourself,” Craig said.
Lastly, the Leadership Conferences from July 5 to 21 are the programs that exude the most of what Craig calls “squad time” for the kids, during which they choose a social issue they care about and turn that into a presentation for their peers.
Students choose a concentration in either athletics or performing arts and develop related skills through writing and hearing from speakers from a variety of backgrounds. Most, if not all, of the facilitators, speakers and educators are also Black, which Craig said further bolsters the impact these role models can have on the students the program serves, who are predominantly Black.
Last year, one youth group focused on bullying and suicide and ended up writing, directing, filming and editing a PSA that focused on the types of bullying, how it can lead to suicide and the solutions for both those being bullied and bullies themselves.
Another group took a look at Black entrepreneurship and the importance of Black-owned businesses in the local neighborhoods; their presentation was essentially a pitch for a smoothie and infused water business using ingredients from a local garden. It’s an approach to fostering the inner social entrepreneurs in local youth that Craig believes can make more of a change that isn’t overly complex.
“I think there’s a lot of depth to what they have to say, and they’re able to identify root causes in a way that I think people who are further away from the issue aren’t able to or takes them longer to,” she said. “They’re able to do it in plain and accessible language which I think, if we’re going to create large-scale change, it needs to be plain and accessible, not solely theoretical or academic.”
The application deadlines for all three programs is May 31.