We love giving out money to worthy organizations. Which is why we were very happy when SCOPE, which stands for Summer Camp Opportunities Promote Education, applied to the Kars4Kids small grant program. SCOPE has a unique mission, providing summer camp scholarships to kids who would otherwise be stuck in the city over the long, hot, dangerous inner-city streets of summer. But SCOPE scholarships are tied to academic achievement, which makes the program unique.
Since its founding in 1991, SCOPE has sent over 20,000 children to summer camp. The children who receive SCOPE scholarships must commit to staying in school. And at the end of the wonderful rainbow that is the social emotional experience of summer camp, is a pot of gold: SCOPE campers become eligible for college scholarships.
This is work Kars4Kids is proud to partner with and we wanted to know more. We figured that if we wanted to know more, so did you, our readers! That’s why we spoke with Molly Hott, Executive Director of SCOPE.
Molly Hott: My relationship with SCOPE actually began almost 15 years ago as a college graduate looking to find my way in the camp industry. I was introduced to SCOPE through an internship with the American Camp Association NY/NJ office and from there my volunteerism with SCOPE began. Fast-forward 14 years and here I am, almost a year in as the Executive Director of an organization I care so deeply for and support wholeheartedly.
As a child as young as 4 years old my parents provided me with the fortunate opportunity of a summer at day camp. I loved it! I loved meeting new people, swimming every day, tumbling on gym mats and having the freedom to explore activities that were not accessible at school or throughout the rest of the year.
Day camp quickly turned to 15 summers at sleep-away camp where I learned the values of friendship, loyalty, trust, tradition and of course community. Camp was my ultimate place to be myself and be appreciated for every aspect of that—no questions asked, no judgments made. It was also the time I looked at my surroundings—the people around me, the facilities, the opportunities and the first-time experiences and understood that I was so lucky.
Now I know that it wasn’t luck as much as it was that I was fortunate. I had privilege. My parents were able to provide me and my siblings with the greatest gift in the world, camp. This wasn’t something that every child had in their lives, but camp was something I knew every child SHOULD have the ability to experience at least once, if not twice or fifteen times.
When SCOPE came into my life, I knew it was my chance to do my part in helping as many deserving children who otherwise could not afford the opportunity to go to camp. Camp teaches children to take safe risks. Camp encourages children to try something new and step outside of their comfort zone. Camp introduces children to independence in a supportive atmosphere and friendship in the deepest sense of the word.
Kars4Kids: Are the camp scholarships all full tuition? Do any campers get help to go to more than one session?
Molly Hott: SCOPE scholarships (camperships) help to fund each SCOPE camper for 2 weeks at one of SCOPE’s 38 ACA accredited, nonprofit, resident, partner camps around the country. SCOPE support helps to fund the tuition at the camp for one session (2 weeks). For camps that are free for children to attend, SCOPE support helps subsidize camp expenses based on what it would cost for the 2-week session. Typically SCOPE support is for 2 weeks a summer with the hope that the child commits to staying in school to return to camp with SCOPE support the following summer.
Kars4Kids: Is there a limit on how many times SCOPE would send a camper to summer camp?
Molly Hott: Eligibility for SCOPE support is based on the age of the child (7-16) and the family must meet USDA family income eligibility requirements for free or reduced-price school lunch, be enrolled in a public school or public charter school and make a commitment to stay in school, complete an application essay expressing their desire and motivation to go to resident camp, and agree to comply with the registration procedures and rules and regulations of the chosen camp. As long as the child and family meet these eligibility requirements year after year, our hope is to help support these children in their camp experiences summer after summer.
Kars4Kids Jay Jacobs, SCOPE’s co-founder said that they made a requirement that SCOPE would only accept kids committed to staying in school, “We felt that it was so important for a child to continue and actually reach their educational goals as a part of becoming a successful adult. We wanted the SCOPE program to be an encouragement to help do that.”
How does summer camp help a child with academic success? How does camp help a child become a successful adult?
Molly Hott: Summer vacation for public schools is about 10 weeks long. For children who cannot afford to go to summer camp or other summer programs, that time can seem endless. Children from lower-income families with no opportunity to participate in educationally worthwhile summer experiences can lose academic ground during the summer, placing them at a disadvantage once school starts in September.
There is ample evidence regarding the positive outcomes of summer camp. While unsupervised children run the risk of losing academic ground or, worse, getting into trouble in potentially dangerous urban settings, children who attend well-designed camp programs participate in educational experiences that offer artistic, musical and athletic experiences; adventurous outdoor environments; and excellent adult role models. The benefits of camp are many and well-documented. They include enhanced positive identity, better social, physical and cognitive skills, and more positive values.
Kars4Kids: Do the summer camp scholarships include help with the items kids need for camp, such as sleeping bags, canteens, and flashlights, for instance?
Molly Hott: The SCOPE campership support is designated for the tuition of each child, the camps may have these items to provide to each child to ‘borrow’ during their stay at camp. Each camp has its own policies and packing lists when it comes to the items you will need at camp.
Kars4Kids: Are all of the summer camps you work with, sleep-away camps? What are some of the benefits of sleep-away camp over day camp?
Molly Hott: All of the summer camps SCOPE partners with are nonprofit, American Camp Association (ACA) Accredited, resident (overnight/sleep-away) camps. For the children we help serve, the benefit of a sleep-away experience is to help each child to step outside of the boundaries of their homes/neighborhoods and have the chance to fully immerse themselves in activities, programs and people that they do not ordinarily have access to.
Many of our SCOPE campers have never had the experience of leaving the concrete jungle until they are at sleep-away camp. It is an opportunity for each child to explore nature, learn to swim or build swimming skills, taste s’mores cooked on a campfire, or climb a rock wall and zip line through the trees while their friends below, cheer them on. Sleep-away camp provides the support for children to build independence, make decisions to meet their personal needs and grow individually while having the care of their peers and counselors.
There is a sense of preparedness sleep-away camp provides children when you have to share a cabin with strangers who quickly become friends. There is a level of responsibility you have to take on as an overnight camper to make your bed and do your bunk chores so that you are respectful of the spaces that you share with others. There is a commitment that you have to make to yourself, your family and those around you at sleep-away camp that you can do it: you can make friends, try new foods, learn new skills, paint your face and cheer for your team and come out on the other side, with a stronger understanding that those boundaries don’t have to restrict you when you return home.
Kars4Kids: Does SCOPE receive updates on individual campers? Would you know, for instance, how kids from low-income homes are received by fellow campers from more well-to-do backgrounds?
Molly Hott: Through the relationships with our SCOPE partner camps we are able to access updates on SCOPE campers. In addition, our CampMinder database helps to track each child we help support, year after year.
During the summer months, the SCOPE staff team has the pleasure of traveling to visit some of our camps to breath camp in action. We have access to chat with campers and staff to learn of their camp ‘happenings’ and learn about all the firsts that camp has afforded them. The beaming glow of the camp community is contagious. When you are at camp, it doesn’t seem to matter where you come from, it matters how you live in the moment you are in with the people you are in it with.
Kars4Kids: Do some SCOPE campers apply to become counselors or other camp staff? Is that a thing?
Molly Hott: At many of the SCOPE camps we have visited, we have had the chance to meet and talk with staff who were former SCOPE campers. The general consensus as to why they return is to pay it forward. Camp provided so much for them; developmentally, emotionally, and socially, that with the ability, they wanted to be able to give that back to other deserving children.
Kar4Kids: We see that SCOPE has started operations in the Southwest and has one YMCA camp accepting SCOPE applicants. What are SCOPE’s goals for the Southwest and in general, going forward?
Molly Hott: SCOPE is a national organization with regions in the Midwest, Southeast and Southwest in addition to our home base in the New York Tri-State area. The goal overall is to provide as many children from underserved communities with life-changing opportunities through the experience of summer camp. In the summer of 2016 SCOPE helped to provide 587 camperships to children across the country, in the summer of 2017 we hope to provide those 587 children with camperships in addition to hundreds more for children who have not yet had the opportunity. With the support of our growing community we can help make the dreams of summer camp a reality for children all over the country. #SupportSCOPE @SupportSCOPE https://support.scopeusa.org/