Author Archives: Lauren Cowman

Governor Rick Scott Recognizes Summer Learning Day

Governor Rick Scott recognized the importance of Summer Learning Day by creating a proclamation to make it a statewide celebration! Although Summer Learning Day is celebrated on July 14, 2016, the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and our partners kicked off the Summer Learning Celebration on June 23, 2016. To see the photos from our summer learning day event, click here. To learn more about what Summer Learning Day is and how it is celebrated across the United States, click here. We hope that you will join our awesome state in celebrating Summer Learning Day on July 14, 2016.

Increased Summer Camp Funding Means More Kids Served

From The Florida Times Union – By Tessa Duvall – Mon, Jul 27, 2015

Summer camps in Jacksonville were made available to an all-time record number of kids this year due to increased city funding approved by the City Council earlier this summer.

An estimated 6,700 children will attend 92 Jacksonville Children’s Commission camps across the city, hosted by 30 different providers. That’s up from 5,694 kids in camps in 2014, according to JCC records.

Those figures also represent the highest number of camp locations and providers in at least the last five years, according to JCC records.

Community leaders, including JCC CEO and Executive Director Jon Heymann and Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, voiced concerns that some of Jacksonville’s youngest residents could find themselves mixed up in gangs and violence without constructive activities for them to do while school was out.

“One of our claims was, this summer is not going to be a pleasant one if we don’t get more kids in camps. (Vitti) called it a powder keg, and I agreed,” Heymann said. “All those kids are in summer camps, and they’re either not doing bad things, or bad things are not being done to them or with them, meaning they’re not being recruited into gangs or they’re not involved in any gang activity or violence at all.

“That is huge for the city of Jacksonville.”

Heymann said 2015 camp spending — almost $2.5 million — represents the most camp seats the commission has funded since its creation in 1994.

For the second year in a row, JCC asked City Council to approve using money from JCC’s fund balance to expand its camp offerings. Council approved $160,000 in May, and an additional $541,000 in June, Heymann said. Council approved using $172,000 in fund balance in 2014, bringing total camp funding to almost $1.9 million, he said.

The extra money this year even allowed JCC to clear its 1,500 child waiting list, Heymann said.

JCC pays for seats — or slots — at summer camps. JCC allots up to $75 per child for up to five weeks, so the most an agency can get is $375 per seat.

However, a seat can represent more than one child, as some kids attend two or three weeks, and another may fill that seat for the remainder of the camp.

In response to a Times-Union request for the number of kids served in JCC-funded camps, the commission estimated that number at 6,700. However, the actual total could be higher because 6,700 represents the seats paid for, not the number of kids who will fill those seats throughout the course of the summer.

Asia Bey has enrolled her daughter, 10-year-old Heaven Blanding, in JCC-funded summer camps for at least the last six years. This year Heaven attended Sister Hermana Foundation’s summer camp in the Brentwood Lakes Apartments — a brand new summer camp offered for this first time this year.

“She looks forward to it every day, getting up,” Bey said. “She beats me up, dressed and all I have to do is approve her clothes. She packs her lunch. She loves it.”

Bey said without the city camps, she’d be “struggling to pay” for her daughter to go to camp. “I can’t really say where she would be if this wasn’t offered because to pay for regular, full-time summer camp is hard,” she said.

Heaven said she doesn’t know what she’d do without a camp to go to — but whatever it is, it wouldn’t be this much fun.

“It’s a great experience,” she said, smiling, “and it’s a place to have fun.”

Bey said she sees camp as an investment in the community.

“I don’t worry about her during the day time while I’m at work,” she said. “I know she’s taken care of. I know she’s in a safe place. They have education, so I know she’s not just sitting around. It really means everything as far as enrichment, education and socially as well.”

Veronica Glover, executive director of the Sister Hermana Foundation, said her organization is new, and aims to provide services to individuals with breast or colon cancer. However, she has a “heart for children” and knew there was a need for services in Brentwood Lakes Apartments.

Glover estimated about 80 percent of her campers live in the apartment complex, and camp averaged 54 children per week, though some days saw as many as 60 or 65.

“A lot of times when you look at television, and you see where children have gotten in trouble, they’re disruptive, they’ve vandalized properties, it’s because they’re bored,” she said. “They don’t have anything else to do. Summer camp provides a safe place for them to be, to keep them engaged and not make their own fun.

“We know what happens when children make their own fun: Someone will say, ‘Hey, I bet you can’t throw this rock further than me,’ or, ‘Hey, let’s see if we can hotwire this car.'”

Glover’s camp was only originally funded for 35 campers, but she kept enrolling because she believed “the greater good” of the community required it. Now, JCC’s additional funding will cover those extra kids, she said.

Otherwise, Sister Hermana would have bee left paying those costs out-of-pocket. But it’s something Glover said she would have done.

“I hate turning on the television and see where children are injured or going to jail for foolishness.”

Tessa Duvall: (904) 359-4697

This position reports to the Assistant Director of Program Coordination for the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and provides out of school time (OST) teacher guidance, curriculum and environment support that is congruent with the Florida Afterschool Network (FAN) standards, designed to raise the social, emotional and academic outcomes of the children served. The position provides technical assistance and coaching to OST providers on FAN assessments and additional assessment tools.

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Children can focus on learning when they don’t have to think about their hunger! Last year 630,000 dinners were provided for 7,200 children through after school and summer programs.