Skating, swimming, science, math and reading. This is what summer is made of if you are a camper at Camp Love & Learn, the summer camp of Catholic Charities of West Tennessee.
The seven-week camp is a dedicated effort to prevent the summer slide – a propensity to lose the academic gains made during the previous school year. But it also provides plenty of fun and new friendships to the children who attend.
Karrington Wilson, 8, said camp is “awesome. We are going skating, and we went swimming. I met friends and the teachers are really nice.”
Micahya Johnson, also 8, takes a more practical view. “It’s good to learn at camp. If we didn’t, when we went back to school we wouldn’t know anything.”
In its sixth year, Camp Love & Learn serves lower-income children who might not otherwise be able to afford summer day camp. Campers pay just $25 per week, but the actual cost of providing the camp is approximately $30 per day. The difference is made up by grants and generous donors.
Every week has a theme and offers a robust menu of educational and entertaining activities. The first week was Carnival Week and included a visit by the Memphis Cotton Carnival King, Queen and Entourage. The theme for the second week was Healthy Food Choices & Wellness. Two physicians visited the camp, as did nutrition students from the University of Memphis. During Patriotic Week, the children learned about U.S. Presidents, flags, bills and coins and enjoyed a Spirit Parade and Carnival on Red, White and Blue day.
Each day also includes math, reading and science instruction. During the first week of camp, each child was assessed in reading and math. Assessments will be repeated the last week of camp to determine progress. In 2017, 98% of campers who took pre- and post-tests maintained or increased their test scores in math over the summer, and 88% maintained or increased their test scores in reading.
"Camp Love and Learn focuses on preparing the child to move academically and confidently from one grade to the next. A confident child is not afraid to say ‘I can do it. Let me try’,” said Virginia Davenport, camp director. “All children excel at something, and it's great when the child discovers that something."
Six-year-old twins Kaylee and Karlee Sanders agree that academics are important.
“Camp is really fun because you get smarter,” Kaylee said.
“I like to do math,” said Karlee.
Assistant to Executive Director and Program Director – Camp Love & Learn
Virginia began her career as an educator in the Arkansas School System and the Shelby County School System.
She joined Catholic Charities and served in the positions of Child Care Director, Director of Child Care Services, and Coordinator of New Employee Orientation and Training.
After a brief retirement, Virginia rejoined Catholic Charities and serves as Program Director of Camp Love & Learn.
Virginia received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education from LeMoyne Owen College; graduate studies in Special Education and Administration and Supervision at the University of Memphis. Virginia is a 2007 alum of Leadership Memphis.
Virginia served in various positions on local and state education committees and boards, including President of Memphis Association on the Education of Young Children (MAEYC).
Virginia has two daughters, Visa and Dena - who work in the field of education - and five grand-children.
E-mail: virginia.davenport [at] acc.cdom [dot] org