Aug. 20, 2021 -- After sitting empty for much of the past 18 months, Heights High School was certainly buzzing with activity this summer. As home to the district’s Tiger Camp, nearly 560 kindergarten through 8th graders spent eight weeks in the building in June and July.
Two hours of each morning were dedicated to academic enrichment taught by district teachers, while the rest of the day included more traditional summer camp activities. Campers learned to swim, played African drums, mastered yoga moves and played games both inside the classrooms and on the outdoor athletic fields.
The camp was designed to address some of the learning loss that inevitably took place during remote school, as well as help children reconnect with their peers while engaged in supervised fun summer activities. CH-UH partnered with community organizations to give the children as broad and varied an experience as possible.
Djapo Cultural Arts Institute demonstrated and taught African drumming and dance, a camp favorite. The Heights Libraries provided story time plus a mini coding camp where children learned to write simple code on iPads. Lake Erie Ink led creative writing activities and My Village Yoga offered lessons three times each week.
“The kids were a little hesitant about the yoga,” said Nancy Peppler, Supervisor of Community and School Partnerships for the district. “But after one class, they absolutely loved it.” She credited that to yoga instructor and studio owner Kimberly Russell, who founded My Village Yoga in the Fairfax neighborhood of Cleveland based “on the idea that the benefits of yoga should be shared with everyone throughout the Cleveland community, regardless of age, body type, race, religion, or fitness level.”
“She was just fabulous,” said Ms. Peppler, “and had the absolute best attitude.”
Another camp highlight was swim instruction by Cleveland Urban Swim, a group specifically focused on teaching or strengthening water skills in children least likely to have them and most at risk of drowning. They brought in instructors and lifeguards and taught 40 3rd and 4th graders to swim, two-thirds of whom had “little to no swim experience,” according to Cleveland Urban Swim leader Diana Johannessen, a 1989 graduate of Heights High.
After just one week of instruction, she reported, “We can already see how much more comfortable the swimmers are becoming in the water with their new skills!” The district hopes to expand that partnership to safely expose more students to the water.
The camp experience was facilitated by the district’s before and after care partner, Right at School, whose staff members served as “counselors,” managing student movement from one activity to another, overseeing lunch and extra activity periods, and coordinating the end of camp carnival, which included a much-coveted dunk tank for teachers and counselors. You can guess that campers wanted to dunk Monticello Middle School principal Dr. Jeff Johnston, who served as camp principal.
None of this would have been possible without generous donations from the Heights Schools Foundation, including a $25,000 gift from Fairmount Presbyterian Church.
“Because of the generosity of our friends and neighbors at Fairmount Presbyterian Church, we were able to give every student items that made camp fun and safer, as well as offer additional enrichment like yoga and music for hundreds of kids,” said executive director of the Heights Schools Foundation Julianna Johnston Senturia. “It’s amazing to me how this challenging time has inspired so much kindness and community spirit.”