If you asked a teacher one of the biggest perks of working for a school system, this would probably be the number one answer. But as a borderline-workaholic speech-therapist rapidly approaching my first work-free summer break out of college, I thought, “What am I going to do with myself for eight weeks?” I went back to the root of why I became a speech language pathologist in the first place: I wanted to help students succeed; especially those who needed the most help. This is how I first learned of School on Wheels, which would help me continue my life’s passion… and feed my need for a summer project.
In 2011, I joined the School on Wheels team to help implement the organization’s first summer enrichment program, Show and Tell, within the homeless shelters they serve throughout the year. By the end, the students had all read a book of their choice, written their own stories, and participated in a photography course. On the last day, they visited an art gallery displaying their photography and bound, hard-covered books of their creative writing (which they constructed themselves.) I’ll never forget the moment the students arrived at the gallery and the expressions of pride to see their art work displayed for the whole city. It was priceless.
As this spring came to an end, I thought that I would finally try out this summer break concept. But when I learned that School on Wheels was offering another summer enrichment program, Know My Story, I couldn’t give up that opportunity. This summer, the students were able to share their story by creating self-portraits that visually communicated their interpretation of themselves in community. Positive memories were also shared through writing time with help from the Writers’ Center of Indiana. Using print-making techniques, students and volunteers hand printed self-portraits on green re-useable bags and published an anthology of their writing for distribution at local supermarkets. The students also had the unique opportunity to study under Bunky Echo-Hawk, a professional artist completing his residency with the Eiteljorg Museum.
For many of the students, they had never experienced going to a summer camp, holding a digital camera, or even having someone else want to know their story, let alone having their art work displayed in a gallery and studying with a professional artist. Not only did we offer these students living in homeless shelters several once in a lifetime experiences, we also helped them feel just like any other kid- possibly for one of the first moments in their lives.
Do you remember a time when summer programming impacted you as a child?
How does that experience affect you today? Tell us in the comments below!