After-school programs are one of the countless aspects of childhood education that has had to pivot as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. At Trinity College’s Dream Camp in Hartford, they’ve taken after school time, and their popular summer camp, virtual to continuing supporting children of the Capital City despite the challenging times.
“I think I would want to help the world. I would want to work for Apple or Amazon.” Those are just a few of the career goals of Hartford fourth grader Prince Starling, his big plans, thanks in part to what he’s learned at Dream Camp, a summer camp and after school program at Trinity College, now in its 22nd year. It’s aptly named, because leaders want the kids who come here to know, they can be whatever they dream.
"Nothing is too big to reach for when they’re given the support and the opportunity,” said camp program director Adah Gillon.
The camp for kids grades 1-12 runs in the summer and then restarts as an after-school program in the fall teaching arts and sports, math and reading. The program has no cost and before the pandemic provided free transportation to and from for all students.
Because of COVID, things had to go virtual this year, but the camp is still connecting with kids and their entire families even continuing to provide free meals.
“The parents come and pick up a camp in a box and they get a STEM kit, they get art supplies and then our instructors are live with them on Zoom. They are going through the different activities. They have physical fitness class. They have reading class to try to bridge that gap and give them an outlet and a way to do something,” said Gillon.
Trinity senior Martha Peregoy is a student mentor at Dream Camp and said she gets as much from the program as the kids she’s teaching.
“It’s very rewarding. I’ve seen a lot of kids just become a lot better readers. A lot more confidence in their math skills. I’ve seen them develop friendships and just be really kind individuals.”
Prince’s mom Ludy Henderson said their family has noticed big changes in him since he first became a dream camper and now really believe that the sky is the limit.
“He said oh, we learned this in camp, how to build a robot. So let’s see if I can make a robot out of my Legos. Or let’s see if I can make a robot out of this paper or pencil. Now he’s exploring lots of things. I just think that this camp is great. It has given us a lot of opportunities, especially being from Hartford,” said Henderson.
Because Dream Camp has gone virtual, they’re able to reach more children this year, and leaders tell me there are still more spots available for interested children.