The summer camps at UAF looked promising this year; 69 camps were planned with 850 slots for children. Additionally, there was a new life-saving swim program. Then came the pandemic and the shutdown of the university, the departure of the swim coach and the probable closure of the summer camp program. However, Michelle Bartlett and her staff do this as a mission, to help children and families in the summer, so they were not willing to just close up shop. Instead, they pivoted, contacted instructors and looked at what could be offered in a different way. Fewer camps are available, and instructors will be on Zoom and in videos. Packets of materials need to be collected and mailed. However, the topics are still intriguing and educational including: jr. engineering, archeology, cooking, jr. gardening, jr. veterinary care, art, jr. carpentry, butterfly yoga and babysitter training, to name a few. Even though fewer slots will be available, the geographic outreach has increased. Already the program has registrations for children who live in Juneau, Skagway, Wasilla, Big Lake, JBER and Idaho, as well as Fairbanks.
The summer camp program still wants to make scholarships available for children from families that qualify for free and reduced meals. To support this new iteration and innovative outreach to children and families beyond just the local community, even during a pandemic, the Board of Directors of the Rotary Club of College allocated $2000 for this program and would like to have D5010 match it in order to provide at least 32 scholarships at $125 each to children in low-income families. If the scholarships are given for the less expensive camps, there will be more children served.
The costs are different this year with packets, videos and mailing expenses, in addition to the usual stipends for some instructors. College Rotarians have helped advertise the program and will volunteer to stuff packets if needed. Families are doing more this year too, as they cannot simply drop children off; they will be guiding them through the camps at home. So the virtual camps are more complicated in many ways, but the outreach is greater.
This program is educational, it promotes peace in families and teaches respect within virtual communities. Several of the programs, such as yoga, gardening and cooking, promote maternal and child health. Cooking and gardening could even relate to the RI goals for disease prevention and sanitation and hygiene, but primarily the program is about education. This is a program which has proven to be successful in the past, but needs a little help to meet the new challenges of 2020. Even though the state is now getting "back in business", the conditions for teaching children are not easily met. The UAF summer camp program needed to plans in advance for camps without access to university classrooms or face to face instruction. The Rotary Club of College applauds their dedication and creativity; we hope D5010 agrees this is worth a small investment.