When I met Corey, he expressed to me that he had been searching for months for a quality summer program for his two girls. He described them as “socially awkward” explaining that his youngest daughter was diagnosed with schizophrenia and ADHD, while his older daughter was anti-social and chose to be non-verbal. He was very concerned that the affordable programs were not of good quality, and the high quality programs came with high price program fees. “I just want my girls to have a good summer, and I need to be able to work and not worry if they’re ok,” he said.
I explained the program to him and took him on a tour of our center. He came back later that evening with his girls to allow a “meet and greet.” Sure enough, his older daughter, Caren, did not speak. Instead, she hid partially behind her dad, smiled, and waved. The youngest, Torey, had plenty to say! Wanted to know what everything was and what she would be doing over the summer, I gave her the same treatment I gave her father and explained the activities that were planned. I took all three of them on a tour and sat down and showed them pictures from the previous camp. I asked Torey what she thought of the program and she said, “It’s ok. I like it.” Then she asked me if I knew how to cook (I was wearing my apron, because I had been prepping food in the kitchen before they arrived). I asked Caren what her thoughts were. She slid back behind her dad, grinned and gave a thumbs up.
The first few days of camp were long for both girls.
Torey was concerned that she hadn’t made any friends and Caren was not speaking to anyone. I spoke with dad one evening at pick up, and what he shared took me by surprise! “Caren came home and said she really likes the camp and she has really taken a liking to you.” He said Torey said she enjoyed it too but sometimes no one plays with her. “I can work with that! We are definitely headed in the right direction!”
I started asking them to help me more (passing out supplies, taking attendance sheets to the teachers, etc). By week three…….. Caren was “Chatty Patty” and Torey was everyone’s friend. One morning at drop off, the girls came in the door, and several kids called them over for their morning talks and activities. Corey smiled and said, “I still can’t believe you got her to open up and talk to people. She never does this. She won’t talk to family! This camp has been such a blessing to us. I never worry about them at work, and they are so happy. Everyday they come home telling me about the activities, the field trips, and the food.” He suggested that I start selling dinner plates to relieve the parents of having to cook when they get home. Selling food had never been in the plans before, but I absolutely loved preparing healthy meals for the kids.
By the end of the summer, my “socially awkward siblings” had become social butterflies.
That is what we do at New Heights Community Resource Center. Our impact extends beyond academics and free meals.
Our goal is to partner with parents and foster development of the “whole” child. This success story may not be about increasing reading scores by four grade levels or helping someone move from “Homeless to Harvard” in a sense.
But for a parent concerned with his child’s social and emotional development, this was a priceless “win” that no amount of money could buy.