This will be my third week as a Summer Associate for Community Action Network Ann Arbor and at this point I’m feeling both settled and optimistic in the effects this program is having. The specific program I am partaking in is oriented towards families of low income areas who have young children who would benefit from an educational summer camp. Within this program my role -along with my fellow Summer Associates- is to facilitate this camp structure and work directly with the kids. At this point I have gone through the required training and gotten to really apply it.
A normal day in this program begins with arriving at the site and prepping any lessons and setting up the classrooms for the kids. After this you wait for the kids to arrive – the more days of camp we have the more exciting this moment gets. Following the arrival of our kids there is a good 10 minutes of what I like to call structured anarchy where we are reunited with our kids and they tell us everything we have missed and all the thoughts they’ve had in the half of a day since we’ve parted. This has probably been one of my favorite parts of the day because of how excited these kids are about the smallest things and how it doesn’t waiver regardless of time or relevance. After settling in with our groups we begin to go through our daily schedule, this includes a good balance between education and fun – enough so that the kids make it through the day with minimal complaints aside from the normal “I’m hungry” and “can we go back to the gym” (usually). This schedule has become routine not just to us (the Summer Associates), but to them as well. Yes, this is convenient that my kids are becoming as settled as I am, however this has directly led to the downfall of our honeymoon faze. The kids are less overcome with the newness that they’re now behaving like kids – which anyone who has worked with kids for a full 7-hour day knows is always authentic. I’ve learned that kids experience the world and their emotions as organically as can be – they feel everything that demands to be felt and they don’t think twice. Regardless of whether this is really warranted or not I have to admire their realness, which is something I’ve had or remember a time or two in trying moments of crying over things like a missing Lego or “their” basketball being used by another kid.
I have had my kids for 3 weeks of this now and have seen them – as well as our whole class – already grow. They make strides far faster than anyone my age does, seeing this first hand has been an experience in and of itself. With the last 3 weeks I have with my kids and this program I remain excited to hear every small story or unrelated thought they have and to be there for every authentic emotion – because the odds are high that following the conclusion of this summer camp I’m going to miss them more than they’ll miss me.