The below post was printed on 6B today as a guest commentary:
For the past four years, I have spent at least one week of my summer in late June back at my school, the Community School of Naples.
I did it again this past week, even though I have graduated.
CSN hosted its sixth annual week-long camp that serves hundreds of elementary-age children from Immokalee who attend the Guadalupe Center’s eight-week Summer Tutoring and Recreation (STAR) program.
The Guadalupe Center’s goal is simply stated but maybe not easily done — break the cycle of poverty through education. For one week, about 300 children from Immokalee come to our campus for academic and recreation activities.
Without a doubt, I can tell you, the camp gets bigger and better each year.
CSN students run the classes, raise money and organize a good deal of the program that Jill Rochette, CSN’s director of student activities, supervises.
During the mornings, students from the Guadalupe Center could be found racing Hot Wheels down various ramps while learning the basics of physics, identifying patterns on computer games or reading stories and discussing them with the teenage counselors.
The fun part comes in the afternoons. The children rotate through recreation activities like rock climbing and kickball in the CSN Field House. And on Friday, our final day, it’s all fun with an elaborate tug of war tournament, video presentations, scooter races and gifts for the kids.
Students at CSN have been incredibly blessed with the opportunity to do a lot of good for not only ourselves but also for others. The scenario at this camp probably represents the social extremes of Southwest Florida, but, for one week, that doesn’t matter. We share one campus and have one great time.
We really have a lot of fun here and feel a great sense of accomplishment from making students smile after an intense tug of war match or teaching them a science lesson with Hot Wheels. They’ll remember that, and we will, too. I know it sounds cliché, but there really is a mutual benefit to volunteering. We get as much from it as those we help.
Several years ago, money was hardly an issue for the camp. Of course, as the economic climate of our country, Collier County in particular, and our school has drastically changed; money is now an issue.
This year we were initially far short of our fundraising goal for the camp. So Rochette and Deborah Bright, a faculty adviser of a student club, helped me and other students quickly stage an additional fundraising event: Students bid on the chance to “pie” their teachers with a plate of whipped cream. Both the first and second place bidders won (and paid), and the second-place bidder would pie the teacher with a smaller pie. About 12 teachers volunteered for this event, and we raised more than $1,200 that day.
And with that money, Rochette and the volunteers here pulled together an amazing and unforgettable camp for both the almost 300 elementary-school students and the 80 CSN student volunteers.