CHARLOTTE—The start of school is a few weeks away the My Place Summer Camp is working to ensure about 150 homeless children will be better prepared.

The eight-week long, free camp is run through A Child’s Place in Charlotte and targets high-risk client children in the school system. Currently, there are more than 4,900 children identified as homeless in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

“During the summer if they weren’t with us, they would be in pay-by-week motels, often taking care of their younger siblings, maybe in doubled up situations in neighborhoods that may not be the best place to be,” said executive director of A Child’s Place Annabelle Suddreth.

The children at camp have been identified as high-risk, and are all without permanent homes.

“For the children we work with, school becomes the most stable part of the day. They’re sitting in the same seat, they see the same teacher, they’re playing with the same friends,” said Suddreth.

CMS Superintendent Dr. Heath Morrison said summer learning loss is a significant problem for all children, but especially these children considering their circumstances.

“If we’re not intentional about what they need along that pathway, things like these summer camps where they get literacy, they get numeracy, they get fed, then we’re going to lose some of these kids; and we can’t afford to lose any of them,” said Morrison.

Morrison and Suddreth said the children come with a lot of challenges, but also tremendous opportunity.

“The national graduation rate for homeless children is less than 25 percent, so our goal is to beat those odds. There’s so many odds stacked against the kids that we work with, that we want to make sure they progress through education, because for us, that’s the key for prevention of poverty is for every year that a child can progress through school, the probability of being poor as an adult decreases immensely,” said Suddreth.

Officials say teaching the children that they are important and to follow their dreams is also equally crucial.

“Beyond the academics, we’re also hopefully building a spirit inside of them that can help sustain them when they’re not at our camp,” said Suddreth.

This is the seventh summer the My Place Summer Camp has been held. Each year, they test the campers at the beginning and end of camp, and 94 percent maintain or increase their academics over the summer.


From News 14 Carolina, Aug. 3, 2012

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