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Tangible Good for Lawrence Children

Tangible Good for Lawrence Children
Monday, July 21, 2014

Boats, squash and spotlights comprised just a handful of features on the first of the ECCF’s two summer visits to the city of Lawrence. As a part of the Betty Beland Greater Lawrence Summer Fund (GLSF), staff, Trustees and friends took a road-trip throughout the Lawrence/Andover area, seeing the fruit of the summer fund in action.

Each year, the Betty Beland Greater Lawrence Summer Fund grants organizations that provide quality summer programming to youth in the Lawrence area. From athletic programs to the arts, ECCF helps support programs that are making a real impact. Our goal in visiting was to learn more about how the GLSF provides safe, fun and enriching opportunities to youth in the Greater Lawrence area. And what a great day it was!

Here are a few of the places and inspiring programs we saw:

• Over the years, Teach for America’s national model has trained over 10,000 teachers. But this summer is special because for the first time, TFA partnered with Lawrence Public Schools, creating a teacher training academy right here in Essex County. Amy Blais, Managing Director of Development at Teach for America, Lawrence, demonstrated the results of the new partnership. To better understand the community, teachers visited historical sites and made home visits. With focused students—and teachers who encouraged students to use their confident “college voices” when speaking—the Teach for America’s Bruce School community was thriving. It was beautiful to see children learning and empowered in new ways.

• Chris Lynch, Chief Operating Officer of Squashbusters, led us through squash courts of kids running, jumping and cheering. Half squash and half academic enrichment, Squashbusters’ motto is “College, Character, Health.” Squashbusters partners with Phillips Academy to use both squash courts and classrooms. The kids and staff showed us how to play squash, including a formal handshaking ritual with opponents and referees before each match.

• At the shore of the Merrimack River, Jed Koehler, Executive Director, introduced us to the Greater Lawrence Community Boating Program. Over 14 recreation centers send children in the GLCBP to experience canoeing, kayaking and motor boating in a natural setting. On any given day, over 500 children experience the GLCBP boats and facilities. Jed also emphasized the program’s commitment to water safety. With science programs that teach kids about river wildlife and testing for water quality, GLCBP demonstrated their brilliant pairing of adventure and education.

• In the darkened theater of Acting Out!, a community drama program run by Linda Schoonmaker, thirty-five children preformed with striking confidence. From improvisation games to freestyle dancing, the kids of Acting Out! were anything but bashful. The children ended our visit with a full dance routine they had learned only the day before. 

• Finally, the GLSF Grant Committee met Mark Kampert, Executive Director of the Youth Development Organization. We toured their STEM design lab where elementary and middle school children were building electrical switches. The design prompt was to build switches small enough to be used for a security system. Standing at workstations stocked with bolts, clamps and wires, the kids each tried their own idea to create a working switch. We also met children who were painting with acrylic paint, taking piano lessons, and learning computer programming behind personal laptops. Kids even experimented in fashion design. In the spirit of founder Howard Sticklor’s one-on-one tutoring model, the children showed kindness, comfort and creativity. Mark and the YDO staff (many were college students who had personally come through the YDO program) were achieving tangible good.

A big thank you to all who give to the Betty Beland Greater Lawrence Summer Fund as well as those on the GLSF Grant Committee who toured with us: Holly Langer, Sarah Bachand, Richard Purinton, and Sandi Cannella.

—Carissa Collins, ECCF summer intern

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