Center's summer camp requires parents' involvement

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Summer camp will be a family affair at the Family Resource Center this year.

Mandatory parental involvement is at the center of a new approach. Now, parents must attend a session if they want to enroll a child and weekly parenting sessions to keep their child in attendance.

"Some parents have been a little shocked they can't call or fill out a form and send their kid up here with it," director Denise Lincoln said.

The center serves mostly minority, low-income children on the city's south side. The camp, which begins June 30, will feature swimming, crafts and music, but every activity will be focused on preventing the "brain drain" -- an academic regression caused by not being in school. Low-income children regress more quickly than higher-income students, a pattern attributed to not having access to resources over the summer.

Lincoln hopes to emphasize this to parents during the weekly sessions, as well as provide resources to guide summer learning.

"We want parents to recognize the comradery and support they have in each other," she said.

One of Lincoln's main goals is to make the area self-sufficient. She has consistently said she does not want to "come in and save the world" but rather inspire the neighborhood to fulfill its needs.

Research shows not only the academic but the economic impact of parental involvement. A study called "Parental Effort, School Resources, and Student Achievement" was published last month in the Journal of Human Resources. The co-author told Education Week that "schools would need to increase per-pupil spending by more than $1,000 in order to achieve the same results that are gained with parental involvement."

Besides the summer camp, the Family Resource Center operates a free after-school program that focuses on tutoring and exposure to cultural and athletic activities. But the program is in jeopardy following a winter discovery the center may need a license to operate. The building did not pass an initial health, sanitation and fire inspection, and the center has been dipping into the programming budget to fund necessary changes.

Lincoln said parents are gradually beginning to understand the new requirement. While the parenting topics will be serious, Lincoln is approaching the sessions with humor and fun, she said. She's using refreshments and attendance prizes to attract people.

The camp runs June 30 to Aug. 7, but enrollment sessions are being held this week and next.

"The reason parental involvement is important is because we want to work with the child as a whole unit. And we want parents to work along with us so they know they have our support," said Malissa Beecham, who will be helping run the summer camp.

As of last week, 24 students had enrolled. A maximum of 40 children will be admitted to the camp, which runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

"We're not a drive-to-the-curb-and-drop-off kind of place. We respect kids and parents' roles more than that," Lincoln said.

lbavolek@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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