Summer STEAM Camp – On A Mission To Change Lives

Summer STEAM Camp – On A Mission To Change Lives

Written by Tommy Ferguson, Education Coordinator at SSCH

Summer at St Stephen’s Community House has a different vibe. You can feel the energy when you walk in the front door.

For more than 30 years, the St Stephen’s Community House summer camp has continued to grow, change, and evolve. Over time, our camp has moved from purely recreational to a more purposed-driven, intentionally focused, Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math (STEAM) camp, intending to foster creativity and innovation in our students.

We are on a mission, and that mission is important. While creating programming that helps minimize the summer educational slide, we, more than anything, provide an opportunity for students from Linden to study not only excellent hands-on literature, math, and STEAM activities like simple machines, civil engineering, digital citizenship, and solar power, but also an opportunity for them to learn problem-solving, self-control, group collaboration, communication skills, conflict resolutions and a chance to, for just a few hours a day, just be kids and play in a safe environment. 

Through our summer STEAM camp, as part of our work, we have come to understand the one thing that gives any child an advantage in life is what opportunities they have had and what kinds of support they have been provided. We want to ensure all our students have equal access to opportunities.  We know by doing this, they may one day be able to excel beyond anyone’s dreams, including their own. Exposure opens the world, and representation matters.

All kids need and want the same things. They want to know they are loved, listened to, cared for, seen, and valued. Mr. Rogers, one of my personal education heroes, once said, “As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has- or ever will have- something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.” Or, to use the words of author Kathryn Stockett’s character Aibileen from The Help….”You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” We want every student to know we see them and that they are valued.

Our students and their families are facing challenging times. There are many days the world seems a little more frantic and chaotic than the day before. Since 1919, St Stephen’s has been a place of stability. A place where we can partner with our neighbors to seek solutions to our common problems and to continue working to create a just and fair world. 

Summer Camp has been a part of my life for 54 years. Beginning when I was six years old, I attended an overnight residential Settlement House camp and worked as a summer camp counselor, camp director, and now education coordinator. I love camp, and one thing I know for sure…camp changes lives…it has surely changed mine, and I guarantee we will do everything in our power to make sure it also changes theirs!

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