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Rinah is a sophomore at UPenn where she majors in Psychology. She served during summer 2023 and now is a mentor with our UPenn Village Mentoring chapter. She has been playing the cello for 8 years, produces and composes music, and enjoys writing and painting. 

Summer 2023 Wrapped: 

Rinah served a group of about 15 children at Lucien E. Blackwell in West Philly. She was on a team with 3 other Summer Enrichment Coordinators and one Youth Service Manager. 

What was the highlight of your service?

Zoo day was such a fun and busy day! It wasn’t a highlight because it was the smoothest-running field trip, but having a small group to tour around the zoo made time for me to really bond with those kids. I had them each tell me a couple of things that they really wanted to see and had the kids lead the tour of the zoo. There was one particular boy in my group who usually had a hard time engaging in programming, but he just shone at the zoo and took the lead on being everyone’s tour guide - he was in his element, so happy and excited! The kids were having such a good time that they were more than happy to comply with the expectations put in place and were staying together as a group being so kind to each other.

What were the challenges you experienced? 

Sometimes it was difficult to get the kids excited about the program activities, particularly because we tried hard to incorporate learning components each week. Our team wanted to do presentations every day to go with the theme, and sometimes they didn’t want to sit down for a long presentation. To get the kids interested and engaged we would start each week by writing and performing a rap about the theme that week! Ultimately they adjusted their approach to meet the kids where they were at. 

Sometimes it was hard to navigate sibling relationships, almost half of our kids came from shared households and conflicts from home would come to programming as well. We did a lot of work to resolve conflict together by helping them top into emotional awareness and begin to process what they were feeling deeper than what was on the surface. The best way to mitigate and resolve behavioral challenges was to actually talk to the kids, take time to truly listen to their perspectives and work through what was going on together.

Are there any notable or special moments you want to share? 

On Fridays we usually had lower attendance and the Free Library would come to Lucien to read books and provide activities that aligned with the books. They offered a Disney Day one day which was held at the police station. There was a big fair with Disney characters, a bouncy castle, food, and even a parrot that could sit on the kids’ shoulders. It was so fun! 

Sometimes we would have free time in the gym and I showed them the game Sharks and Minnows - I had low expectations for how much they would like it (sometimes things just don’t hit with kids, haha!), but they LOVED the game and started asking to play it all the time. They ask for it now at the Village Mentoring program and it warms my heart to have a little legacy with the game I shared with him. 

How would you describe your DREAM experience in a phrase or a few words?

More play than work! All the time, the kids are having fun and being funny - it really didn’t feel like work, even during the times when we needed to be more firm with boundaries. Once the expectations of the summer were established, it felt like I was really able to be fully present with the kids and enjoy the summer together since we all got so comfortable with one another.

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In the heart of our summer program, where laughter and curiosity intertwine, an extraordinary adventure unfolded - an indoor rock climbing field trip that not only tested physical limits but became a powerful catalyst for personal and collective growth. This thrilling escapade, meticulously planned by our summer manager, Kaylyn, aimed not just to engage the kids in a new physical activity but to encourage appropriate autonomy, promote a growth mindset, and go beyond conventional learning experiences.

Kaylyn's Challenge:

Kaylyn, our visionary summer manager, recognized the kids' zest for physical activities and sought to elevate their experiences. She embarked on a personal challenge to plan the entire rock climbing field trip, going beyond the routine and traditional, and providing an opportunity for the kids to exercise appropriate autonomy. From coordinating with the facility to handling all communication, permission slips, and family outreach, she emphasized continuous improvement in her leadership skills and set the stage for a transformative day ahead.

Mentors Embracing New Heights:

The challenge extended beyond the kids to our dedicated summer members and mentors. They embraced the opportunity to learn the art of belaying, fostering critical thinking skills and ensuring the safety of their young charges as they scaled the walls. One mentor, recognizing the need for a different approach, got personal with the challenge, taking the lead in offering support to kids who required a break. This adaptive response not only showcased the mentors' commitment to equity but also highlighted their dedication to the well-being and growth of each child.

Kids at the Crossroads of Challenge:

For our young adventurers, the rock climbing excursion was a tapestry of challenges. They navigated unfamiliar terrains, learned the intricacies of rock climbing safety protocols, and faced the empowering decision of choosing their challenge level. The trip not only served as a microcosm of life's challenges but also encouraged future thinking as each child envisioned themselves conquering new heights.

Bonding Over Challenges:

As the day unfolded, a sense of camaraderie emerged among the kids, mentors, and Kaylyn. The shared challenge became the cornerstone of conversations, creating lasting memories and fostering a sense of unity. The rock climbing adventure became more than a physical feat; it became a shared triumph, a testament to the strength found in facing challenges together. The use of an equity lens ensured that every child felt supported, and continuous feedback contributed to their ongoing development.

In the tapestry of our summer program, the indoor rock climbing field trip stands out as a vibrant thread, weaving together moments of challenge, growth, and camaraderie. Kaylyn's initiative to plan the trip, mentors learning to belay, and the kids navigating the heights symbolize the transformative power of embracing challenges. Through this shared experience, we've not only scaled the heights of a rock climbing wall but also reached new summits of resilience, teamwork, and personal growth. The echoes of this adventure continue to reverberate in our conversations, reminding us that growth flourishes in the face of challenges, and together, we can conquer any climb that life presents. As we hold youth to their goals, we pave the way for a future where challenges are embraced, continuous improvement is celebrated, and the spirit of adventure propels us beyond our wildest imaginations.

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In a significant leap forward, Camp DREAM is excited to announce that after a dedicated two-year self-directed journey, we have achieved accreditation from the prestigious American Camp Association (ACA). This milestone is a testament to our commitment to excellence in providing a safe, enriching, and unforgettable experience for all our campers. In this blog post, we are thrilled to share the exciting news with our donors, families, and community partners who have been an integral part of this remarkable journey. 

Over the past two years, our dedicated team at Camp DREAM has worked tirelessly to meet the rigorous standards set by the American Camp Association, a leading organization focused on building quality experiences at camps grounded in belonging and growth. The process involved a comprehensive evaluation of our policies, procedures, and overall camp operations. It required a thorough examination of our commitment to the health, safety, and well-being of every DREAM camper entrusted to our care. 

The ACA accreditation process has been instrumental in helping Camp DREAM establish a robust framework for policies and procedures. Through a meticulous review of our programs, staff training, emergency protocols, and facility management, we have not only met but exceeded the stringent standards set by the ACA. This achievement underscores our unwavering dedication to creating an environment where every child can thrive, learn, and create lasting memories. 

The accreditation process has provided us with invaluable insights and best practices from the industry, enabling us to enhance the overall camp experience for our participants. By aligning our operations with the ACA's high standards, we have not only strengthened the foundation of Camp DREAM but also raised the bar for the quality of services we provide. 

Camp DREAM is more than just a physical space; it is a community that comes together to create something truly special. We are immensely proud of the hard work, dedication, and passion that our staff, volunteers, and partners have invested in making this accreditation a reality. This achievement is a testament to the collaborative spirit that defines our camp, the DREAM program, and the shared commitment to our mission.

With ACA accreditation, Camp DREAM is poised for a bright future. We remain committed to providing a safe and enriching environment for every camper, fostering personal growth, and creating memories that will last a lifetime. This accomplishment is not the end of our journey but a stepping stone to continued excellence and innovation. 

We are thrilled to share this amazing news with our extended Camp DREAM family. The achievement of ACA accreditation is a testament to our collective efforts and unwavering commitment to the well-being and happiness of every child who walks through our camp gates. As we reflect on the past two years, we look forward to the countless adventures and discoveries that lie ahead at Camp DREAM, where dreams come to life. Thank you for being an essential part of our journey!

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