Access to out-of-school enrichment activities or the lack thereof constitutes one of the great social divides among young people. Children growing up in low-, especially very low-income households lack access to those activities: museum trips, country excursions, tennis coaching, swimming lessons, robotics clubs, music school, dance classes, sports leagues, college campus visits, cultural exchanges, and summer camp.
Parents and educators recognize the value these enhancements provide, especially for middle school children at a critical life crossroads: enabling pre- and early adolescents to explore interests, nurture skills, expand horizons, gain social skills, develop self-esteem and confidence, and learn teamwork, tolerance, and individual initiative. Decades of unwise budget cuts have eliminated enrichment opportunities like these from public middle schools. Parents in less deprived neighborhoods regularly supplement their schools with such programs; our families cannot.
Without access to these enrichment activities, life opportunity gets cut short, the cycle of poverty continues, serious health issues from the lack of physical fitness activities advances with age. . In the absence of summer camp or other meaningful summer engagement, low-income youth suffer social and academic setbacks as compared to their more engaged peers. That is why Sophie Gerson Healthy Youth brings to low-income children the same top-quality school year and summer camp programming which other children take for granted but which children in low-income households otherwise would never receive.
Programs for Our Base
Currently SGHY partners with public middle schools in the Southeast Bronx and on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. We plan this spring to launch a pilot program at MS 140, a high needs, very low-income school also on the Lower East Side. Schools from those and other very low-income communities remain on a waitlist, dependent on funding.
Our present partner schools consist of Federal Title One schools with their student bodies overwhelmingly drawn from households living below the poverty line. These schools include many students living in family homeless shelters. Last summer, SGHY went shopping for a child living in a shelter whose family lacked resources for camp attire and supplies so that child could attend summer camp. The child had the time of his life, with social workers reporting that the child came back happy and more emotionally fortified to move forward with his young life
The school has a population of close to 600 children. Almost 100% of the children, in grades 6 through 8, are eligible for free breakfast and lunch. The school accommodates children from three homeless shelters which are in the immediate vicinity of the school. In addition, the school’s population includes 27% of the student body classified as needing special education services, and 23% of the students classified as English Language Learners.
The school serves 830 children of which half are in grades 6 through 8. The school adjoins both the Alfred E. Smith public housing project and a major family homeless shelter. Over 90% of the children are eligible for free breakfast and lunch. The school student population consists of 23% classified as needing special education services and 16% classified as English Language Learners. Our Seven Point Program
1 – PROGRAM EXPERTISE: SGHY does not run programs. We develop program ideas and then identify and engage the City’s best, top-caliber program providers in their respective fields, benefitting the children with an unusually high expertise level.** SGHY negotiates generous discounts with all program providers and camps.
2 – SCHOOL COLLABORATION: SGHY plans activities with administrators and teachers at our partner middle schools. We involve school day teachers alongside program providers and at camps to assure communication and collaboration between the school and the program or camp meet individual student needs. SGHY covers faculty per session rates in accordance with collective bargaining agreements;
3- UNIVERSITY AFFILIATION: SGHY collaborates with Columbia University to involve student and faculty scientists and athletes in SGHY activities, both in partnership with middle schools and on Columbia’s campus. This provides role models and college inspiration to our middle school students;
4- VARIETY: SGHY offers an unusual variety of healthy programs and activities in sports, dance, hands-on science, outdoor nature, cultural exchange, and music & drama. This variety includes familiar activities so they can build on existing interests with others that can expand their horizons..
5 – SUMMER CAMP: SGHY offers students whose families cannot afford tuition the opportunity to attend top-quality sleep-away or day camps. Such active social and physical engagements contributes greatly toward success in the school year that follows.
6- VALUES: All activities in addition to their particular skill sets, promote self-esteem and self-confidence; teamwork and tolerance; self-responsibility and individual initiative; perseverance & sportsmanship; college inspiration & grand dreams. SGHY believes that experiencing nature in the great outdoors also provides value to inner-city youth in experiencing a balanced whole-world perspective,
7 – TOTALLY FREE: SGHY with your support provides these activities totally free-of-charge to children and families. This includes providing transportation, meals, snacks, canteen allowances, proper attire and supplies as needed, all covered by SGHY.