A group of Brenau University students came back to Gainesville winners, but its success is just beginning.
Iben Nielsen, Zuhra Doost and Julissa White represented Brenau at the Appalachian Ideas Network Showcase in Berea, Ky., a two-day competition in which students at six different colleges and universities present
entrepreneurial social ventures that address local community issues.
Brenau’s issue: summer camps.
Its concept, Real Interactive Summer camp Experience, addresses the need for summer programs in low-income areas of Gainesville.
“We all talked about what problems we’ve seen in our community and we somehow came up with summer camps,” said Nielsen, the project manager and a graduate student at Brenau.
What the group saw was children, especially from low-income families, are not in structured environments over the summer, which can lead to “summer learning loss,” where students lose previous information because of brain inactivity.
That loss could equal up to two months of class time.
“We want to eliminate that summer learning loss and, if we can, we really want to enhance their learning as well,” said Nielsen.
The group will put on an eight-week program starting June 4 at the housing authority community center on Pearl Nix Parkway.
Children, grades first through third, who live in the area will have access to the center’s computer lab and the classes RISE will put on.
The idea is to make summer opportunities like this available for those students who may not have the resources to go elsewhere.
“It’s turned into a really cool project where we want to take the summer camp to where the children live,” Nielsen said.
Breakfast and lunch will be provided by the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, and the housing authority is providing the facility.
Each week students will continue to learn and grow in an educational environment.
But, Nielsen said, it won’t feel like school at all.
“It’s not supposed to be a punishment for them to go to school,” she said. “It’s supposed to be a fun and interactive environment.”
Students will take field trips or participate in out-of-classroom activities every Friday.
Organizers say the camp is only available at the Pearl Nix location this summer, but they have plans to expand to other housing authority centers, like Atlanta Street and Fair Street.
“We want to learn from the pilot project to see what works and what doesn’t work,” said Nielsen.
Placing first also means $2,750 to progress the camp, which has been “met with enthusiasm” locally.
“It was really amazing to be able to run this idea by somebody outside of the community because inside the community we’ve only been met with enthusiasm,” said Nielsen.
Those who are interested in the program must sign up with the housing authority by May 15.
Lee Johnson covers education issues for The Times. Share your thoughts, news tips and questions with him: