LA PLUME — For Skyler Hutchins, a Lackawanna Trail fourth grader, the best part about attending Camp Connections was interacting with the great outdoors.
“We got to go in the creek and catch fish,” she said of the six-week day camp at Keystone College.
A total of about 60 children from the northern portion of Lackawanna County and the projects in Scranton attended the camp, which was presented in partnership with Friends of the Poor, the Lackawanna Trail School District, and the Family Connections program, beginning July 6. An end-of-camp celebration for the children and their families was held Friday, Aug. 12 in the college’s Student Restaurant.
“I call it (Friday’s event) ‘the grand finale,’” said Sister Ann Walsh, director of Friends of the Poor. “I look forward to it every year.”
Hutchins and some of her friends paused from their lunch during the celebration to reflect on their favorite portions of the summer. Her classmate, Daniella Alvarez, said she most enjoyed gym time, specifically “playing volleyball.”
And for Lackawanna Trail sixth grader Victoria Alverez, learning how to cook was the most exciting part.
“We get to make things that I never make at home,” she said.
The camp counselors included teachers and teachers’ aides from area school districts.
The camp’s co-director Keeley Kettel, who also works as a substitute teacher at the Lackawanna Trail Elementary Center, said throughout the six weeks of Camp Connections, she saw the children grow in many ways, including teamwork, group involvement, academics and self-esteem.
“It gives them such an opportunity to be in an environment that’s very nature-based with tons of outdoor activity,” said the Factoryville resident.
According to Dr. Fran Langan, dean of the School of Professional Studies at Keystone, over the six weeks, the children, ages 3-11, attended the day camp on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, while on Mondays and Fridays, the counselors went out into the communities to give the campers’ parents the opportunity to gain some of the same experiences as the campers. This included a wide range of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities, along with art.
Langan stressed that a lot of teamwork, and not just among the campers, goes into the program, which is now in its third year at Keystone College.
“It takes a team…of educators and a team of funders,” she said.
The program was funded by the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, with meals provided by the Weinberg Food Bank. The PNC Foundation funded professional development and training for the camp staff.