A Week of Adventure

What a Difference a Week Can Make!

More than 100 under-served middle schoolers.
One amazing six-day summer adventure. A lifetime of benefits.

Each summer, Sophie Gerson Healthy Youth (SGHY) partners with public schools in NYC to provide under-served middle school students with the opportunity to get away from the sweltering city. For those whose families can’t afford activities like camps or vacation, experiencing a week full of firsts can be life-changing; SGHY ensures they have everything they need to experience the land, water, and sky in new and unexpected ways.

This past summer, SGHY partnered with Camp Zeke, a health- and family-centric summer camp with amazing lake-front facilities in the Pocono Mountains to provide 89 students with a five night and six day all-inclusive sleepaway camp experience. Recognizing that many children or their families prefer day camp, SGHY also provided 24 children with an action-packed week at the Kids of Summer day camp.

Overall, more than 100 rising 6th to 9th graders improved their self-confidence and physical fitness, learned healthy habits, and gained friendships and memories that will last a lifetime!

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“My students come back every fall so excited to tell me about all the great things they did at camp: the boating, swimming, fireplace stories, sports, lake, pool, arts and crafts and getting to leave NYC to spend time in the woods means the world to them.  That bus ride to Pennsylvania for them is equivalent to a plane ride to Australia for us adults.”
 John DeMatteo, Phys Ed Teacher, MS 126, Manhattan

Summer Camp Started with Sophie Gerson

Sophie Gerson was dedicated to making the world a better place for young people. Today, SGHY continues this legacy as a champion of youth advocacy and enrichment. SGHY identifies, funds, administers, and coordinates high quality science, art, and sports programs that promote physical and emotional health in order to combat epidemic health and social issues—from obesity and diabetes to bullying and low self-esteem. The overnight and day camps hosted by Camp Zeke fully embody Sophie’s vision. This summer’s all-expenses-paid experience was so successful that one partner school has already reported at least 67 students interested in Summer Camp 2023! Mr. Gavin Rodgers, Dean of Students at Wagner, highlights the potential for lasting impact.

“I am really looking forward to working with SGHY and the administration at Wagner to build onto these [camp] experiences this school year. With your support we can provide more students with opportunities to get outside and hike on the weekends, visit colleges and museums, play sports after school, and attend summer camp again.”

Students Stay Active through Sports

Camp Zeke offered one-on-one coaching and competitions both in standard athletic events including volleyball, basketball and soccer, as well as sports less-familiar to campers such as tennis, swimming, boating, zip-lining, mountain climbing, and gymnastics! Additionally, some campers continued to develop skills they began learning during the previous school year through SGHY’s regular in-school or after-school sports programs.

Camp programs always encourage a sense of achievement and inclusivity. For example, swimming in the lake, a favorite pastime of campers, was open to all. For students who didn’t pass the lake-required swimming test, counselors offered ongoing swimming instruction in the pool, resulting in most passing before the conclusion of camp.

Culinary Experts Make Nutrition Taste Good

Not all teens naturally crave healthy food, but learning how to make tasty snacks with fresh produce at Camp Zeke demonstrated to students that healthy choices can also be delicious! This hands-on approach to nutrition education has the potential to create long-lasting, positive impacts on students, and is an important component in SGHY’s year-round Youth Advocacy efforts.

I learned how to make banana bread, fried rice.  I learned to be respectful at all times.  It’s good to meet new people.  Jaylise G., 7th Grade.

The Wonders of Space and the Galaxy

For the first summer ever, campers benefited from the integration of our school-year Space Science program thanks to a generous contribution from ConEdison. Special astronomy counselors from the Columbia University Space Initiative (CSI) helped students explore the great beyond through stargazing, constellation finding, star maps, and telescope viewing of stars, planets, and galaxies. And yes, rocket launching was also part of the program!

First time seeing stars and moon super clear!  I’ll miss it.  William, 9th Grade.

Friendship and Kindness is Nurtured

One of the mottos of Camp Zeke is “Be Kind,” a fundamental truth SGHY heartily endorses. No matter the activity, whether sports, nutrition, science, or art, the principles of friendship, kindness, and mutual support were modeled and emphasized by every counselor, volunteer, and employee. The safe and supportive environment allowed campers to navigate an interactive week with a diverse group of peers while learning valuable social lessons that will last long after summer ends.

I learned about sharing places with more than one [person] as you had to be thoughtful of others.  I didn’t think I’d see the moon without them.  Nadia C, 7th Grade

[I learned] how to be social…How to tell when berries are sweet and ready.  Eileen C, 7th Grade.


I learned how to have fun without electronics.  I also learned how to make new friends.  Khadijatou, 8th Grade.

Please consider helping even more students build self-confidence, a connection to nature, physical fitness, good health habits, and strong social-emotional development. 

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