WINDSOR TERRACE — The sound of laughter has returned to summer camps and programs across the Diocese of Brooklyn.
While some programs offered by parishes and Catholic academies are operating a little differently compared to pre-pandemic times, others are finding new ways to help kids explore their interests, both inside and outside the classroom.
Immaculate Conception Catholic Academy in Jamaica Estates is holding its first-ever “Fun in the Sun” summer program complete with conversational Spanish lessons, STEM and STEAM activities, and TACHS preparation. Kelli Westfal, director of marketing at the school, emphasized how important it is that students spend time with their friends this summer.
“We believe this is a great way for students to explore creative areas — like painting and photography — while socializing with their friends in a more relaxed atmosphere,” Westfal said of the program that will run until July 30. “We hope it sparks an interest in a new area for them and that they have fun.”
In Dyker Heights, St. Ephrem is celebrating its 10th season of camp where children ages 4 to 12 get to play tennis and visit local parks and establishments for field trips, among other daily activities.
“We stick to a schedule, but we do allow for free play throughout the day [because] we want the kids to have fun and enjoy themselves,” camp director Arianna DeVito explained. “We will be having a trip to Pinot’s Palette in the upcoming weeks and a cookie decorating activity that the kids are looking forward to.”
Blessed Sacrament-St. Sylvester’s B-Arts Summer Camp will offer sports, theater, and dance classes, arts and crafts, and games to youths ages 6 to 17 in late July and early August. Mother Maria Amador, PCM, the B-Arts Summer Camp director, hopes participating children grow in their faith while integrally growing in all human dimensions.
“For us — the Preachers of Christ and Mary [order] — the arts are the new epiphanies that make God visible and close to everyone,” Mother Maria said. “The arts are the universal language that helps us to evangelize with a new ardor, methods, and expressions.”
She continued, quoting Pope John Paul II’s 1999 letter to artists: “That is why we take so deep the words of Saint John Paul II, ‘In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art. Art must make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God. It must therefore translate into meaningful terms that are in itself ineffable.’ ”
Rosemarie Stern, the camp manager at both St. Bernard in Bergen Beach and Our Lady of Grace in Gravesend, said this year is more important than ever for children to reacclimate to socialization.
“Kids were very isolated and many were studying remotely or were even home-schooled,” Stern said. “We’re trying to build self-esteem through the arts and recreation activities — like arts and crafts, music, dance, and cheerleading — to build these kids back up.”
“But, having fun, without the fear of COVID-19, is really our biggest goal and highlight,” Stern added while explaining that the sister camps plan to each put on a celebratory end-of-camp theater show for the parents.
Parent Regina Kieran, whose second-grade daughter Angelina attends the Our Lady of Grace camp, said the decision to re-enroll Angelina was a no-brainer. Angelina has been a summer camper for the past four years and has blossomed so much since then, according to her mother.
“The social-emotional growth that she’s had from being there is way more than I could have done by her staying at home,” Regina said, “especially with everything that’s gone on with remote learning.”
“Angelina re-learned how to socialize there and it’s a wonderful way for her to ease back into full-class sizes in September,” Regina continued. “It’s a really great asset as far as I’m concerned, both as a parent and educator, and I can’t think of anything better for her to do this summer.”