Teacher/counselors pose with Rep. Joe Courtney and OVCS Director Tracee Reiser at Camp Rotary-AVID.
Three Connecticut College students are working with local middle school children to ensure a summer break that includes learning, as well as much deserved relaxation and playtime. Mauricio Saucedo ´11, Madeline Noi ´12 and Oceane Hooks-Camilleri ´12 are teacher/counselors at Camp Rotary-AVID, a five-week program that engages 66 New London school students between the ages of 11 to 15 in academics and physical fitness. The program is a partnership project among the New London Public Schools, the Rotary Club of New London, Connecticut College and AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). The college students are helping to create unique and innovative workshops designed to keep campers active and learning and to reinforce that college is a goal well within their reach. "I´m getting the opportunity to learn and implement strategies to increase the middle school kids´ interest and engagement in academic achievement and positive lifestyles," Saucedo said. "It has allowed me to make a difference in the kids´ lives." Saucedo is leading a film criticism workshop that teaches creative writing responses. Hooks-Camilleri is showing them how to use fashion techniques to re-design old clothes, while Noi is making poetry hip through "Roc the Mic." The program is extremely beneficial for the campers, and also complements the teacher/counselors´ studies. "Everything that I have learned at the College, from computer science problem solving to sociology, has allowed me to be successful in Camp Rotary," Saucedo said. "The entire experience has helped me how to understand and interact with others by assessing and preventing conflicts." Saucedo and Noi are also learning about community activism and service through their positions as AmeriCorps VISTA summer associates. The AmeriCorps VISTA program is administered through the College´s Office of Volunteers for Community Service (OVCS). OVCS also recruits three full-time Americorps VISTAs to serve a year working in the OVCS community-based programs. Noi says that the entire summer experience is just as enriching for the counselors as it is for the students. "I love volunteering at the camp," Noi said. "The kids are so vibrant and different from each other, and I love that I have come to create a big-sister bond with them." "These bonds inspire the campers to make healthy choices and make education a top priority," Tracee Reiser, associate dean for community learning and OVCS director, said.