A Summer of Educational Fun: Youth Development Celebrates Its First Annual Summer Camp Graduates!

youth development camp participants

6 weeks, 3 cohorts, 2 lessons, and unlimited fun. That’s what this year’s inaugural youth development summer camp consisted of.

Over the summer, Family Services’ Youth Development Program held an educational camp for Lawrence-based youth that taught familiar lessons in our curriculum. The camp, which was newly funded, was designed to be two things: educational and fun. But for Program Manager Jonathan Torres, the camp meant a lot more than just a 2-week commitment from youth participants. “My goal with creating this program was to engage participants while also creating a safe space for them to open up,” Torres said. “The conversations we have at camp give everyone an opportunity for open and honest conversation, some of which may be on topics that they have not been able to discuss before.”

Each week, the program consisted of a different lesson Monday through Thursday and a field trip on Fridays. Week 1 consisted of the Life Skills Lessons & Curriculum Program (ARISE). This lesson consists of topic discussions that will help youth learn how to handle everyday life events and challenges. During week 2, the discussion shifted gears to the Massachusetts Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP). In this lesson youth received sexual health and adulthood preparation education. The camp reached full capacity quickly after enrollment opened up with over 30 youth participating.

The program wrapped up on September 8 with an awards ceremony honoring the participants. The event was attended by staff, youth, parents, and some community guests including Mayor Brian De Pena, Lawrence Police Chief Roy Vasque, members of the Lawrence Police Department, Lawrence City Council President Marc LaPlante, Lawrence City Councilwoman Ana Levy, Community Activist Benjamin Levy, and State Representative Frank Moran.

During the ceremony many parents shared what the program meant to them. “If my child didn’t participate in this program, I would not have been able to work this summer,” noted one parent. “It might seem small but to me and my child, it meant a lot.”

Another parent thanked the staff for providing their children with a safe learning environment. “I took a chance by allowing my child to join an all-day program for 2 weeks. I was hesitant at first—I tend to be overprotective!” said the parent. “But I don’t regret this at all. I hope to be able to enroll my child again next year.”

Family Services is hoping to continue providing summer camps on a yearly basis and receive more funding. “An increase in funds will help us open up our doors for more youth and hopefully for longer cohorts,” Aida Castro, chief program officer at Family Services, noted to attendees at the celebration event. “We, as a society, focus so much on intervention that we often forget about prevention. Programs like this help prevent youth from taking the wrong path; we want to make this camp available to many more kids in the years to come.”

Learn more about the youth development summer camp and what participants had to say in the video below!

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