On Marcela’s* first day of the Summer Middle School program, things were not easy. Her leader Edgar remarks how she went home and, “Told her mom I was pushing her to the limit. But she actually liked it, her mom told me, ‘He makes me do things that I never thought I could do. And I want to go back because he believes in what I can do.’” Edgar adds, “I still to this day continue seeing that girl and telling her ‘you can do it…always believe you can. You cannot surrender. You cannot quit. Because I’m not going to allow you to do that.’”
After the program, Edgar saw the fruits of their persistence when Marcela’s mother came to him to say, “Thank you very much for pushing her and believing in her.” He adds, “It’s very rewarding that we’re doing something that could impact the life of a child forever.”
For the first time ever, Casa Chirilagua launched three summer youth programs. Each program had a different focus: the focus of elementary Summer Club being academic enrichment, Friends Camp exploring fun lessons beyond the classroom, and the Middle School Program focusing on youth leadership development. All of these programs were made possible thanks to Casa Chirilagua’s new community center, as well as the graciousness of 495 donors during ACT’s For Alexandria’s Spring2Action fundraiser which created the funds to launch these new programs.
Rosanna* is another teen who personally grew during the summer Middle School program, “I felt like I knew myself better than before I went there, and…like this whole teaching me, just made me create a new me.” The program stressed the importance of teamwork and students’ roles as a member of their community. Rosanna sums it up, “I got to learn how working as a team you can accomplish lots of stuff…working together and cooperating.” As part of learning to be active members of their community she and the other students cleaned up trash along the road and surrounding sidewalks, “So we can make our environment a better place for people to live in, and so animals can still be alive and be healthy.”
While the teens grew as leaders, elementary students filled the academic gap that occurs during summer break. “My parents are really grateful that I’m here, because if I wasn’t here I would have a lot of trouble with reading and stuff like that, so they’re really grateful that I’m here,” Gloria*, a recent Summer Club student reminisces. “We learn math, we learn about fractions…I really have problems with [fractions] but I’m getting better. My first time doing division I was like, ‘Oh this is hard, but I’m just going to try.’ I thought it would be hard…but it’s easy!”
These students have now returned back to school bringing with them new knowledge, experiences and strengths. Thanks to your support they have overcome obstacles and are now better equipped to face future challenges. As Gloria says, “I would like to say thank you! I’m really grateful to be here. Because if I didn’t know this place then I would have a lotta trouble with my multiplication, my reading AND my division! But I’m getting better with it because I went to summer club.” From all of us, thank you!
* Names changed for privacy