Our brothers and sisters qualify for summer school through the school district but they can’t attend. They have to watch our younger sisters and brothers while the rest of the family works in the fields.
This was the reality of school-aged children of immigrant families working in the farm fields of the Skagit Valley in the state of Washington. This was the message of two DREAMers, Baudelina Paz and Ezmeralda Martinez. They had come to western Washington with their parents as children.
DREAM is an acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, coming from the DREAM Act. This legislation has been proposed four times in Congress since 2001. At the request of Bishop Gregory Rickel, these DREAMers spoke at churches throughout the Diocese of Olympia. They explained the legislation and how it could help them in their futures.
We can help!
This is what several retired teachers from Church of the Redeemer in Kenmore, Washington, after hearing the stories of these two DREAMers. Together, with members of la Iglesia Episcopal de la Resurrección of Mt. Vernon, Washington, a 2-week educational day camp was developed.
First Summer Day Camp
The first day camp was in the Summer of 2012. It included the followng:
- Age-appropriate learning and tutoring for Kindergarten through 8th grade children
- Preschool classes for children aged 3 to 5 years old
- Breakfast and lunch
- Daily chapel services
- Field trips
- Visiting artists
The initial grant for funding the first camp came from Church of the Redeemer. Another organization, Page Ahead Children’s Literacy of Seattle, provided four new books for each child in English and in Spanish.
Over 60 children of immigrant families attended the first day camp. Volunteers from Resurrección and Redeemer worked side by side to provide direction and leadership.
Deacons from both churches, the Rev. Robin Ringland of Resurrección and the Rev. Mark Blindheim of Redeemer (now of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Mercer Island) learned that, if the camp for the Summer of 2013 could be expanded to 4 weeks, it became eligible for additional grant funding from School’s Out Washington. In addition, meals and student bus transportation could be provided by the Mt Vernon School District.
Second Summer Day Camp
In the Summer of 2013, the camp increased to 120 children with over 90 volunteers. Members of the Latino community worked together with 19 congregations throughout the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia and the Northwest Washington Synod of the Evanagelical Lutheran Church of America.
The Mt. Vernon School District provided cooked meals and allowed the camp to rent a school bus, complete with driver.
The San Diego Quick Assessment was used with each child. Instead of the customary learning decline which occurs in the summer, the assessment showed that at end of the four weeks of camp, 93% of the children maintained their grade level or exceeded it by 1 or more grades. They were better prepared to enter school in the fall.
Despite these successes, many children who wanted to attend had to be turned away. Additionally, it was difficult for the students to adapt to the weekly switch of volunteer teachers.
It was determined that the continued sustainability of the day camp was contingent on the ability to do the following:
- Pay credentialed teachers
- Expand the capacity of the camp
The approval of grant applications to the Discuren Foundation, School’s Out Washington, Page Ahead, and several churches made this possible for 2014.
Third Summer Day Camp
The partnership with the Mount Vernon School District grew to include a paid staff member on site to faciliatate the serving of nearly 8000 meals, two school buses, and in-service training in literacy for the teachers.
In consultation and in partnership with the parents, the Heartwood Ethics Curriculum was used to teach and expound of these values:
The environmental theme of “Caring for God’s Creation” was emphasized through the logo, and the recycling and waste management curriculum.
Resurrección Day Camp 2014 was a huge success. Over 150 immigrant children were able to participate.
They began each day with a chapel service where they would sing “Veras la Gloria de Dios,” “Danos un Corazon,” and “Cristo te Necesita.”
After chapel, they would be served breakfast, attend classes, participate in organized physical education, more classes and lunch. Classes included literacy, math, and environmental science.
Wednesdays were field trip days and craft days led by the Museum of Northwest Art. Fridays had guest speakers from the Latino community to teach about music and dance. Issac Petersen, the Son of Reptile Man, brought snakes, an alligator, and several lizards for the children to see, touch, and even hold!
God’s creation was brought to the school and the children learned about the responsibility we all have to care for them.
People of the Latino community served an even greater roll in 2014. Parents came in during their lunch hours or on their days off. Members of the community provided leadership. Bi-lingual classroom aides came every day to help with the youngest children. Much of the behind-the-scenes work was provided by relatives of the children. The vision of two DREAMers encouraged and financed by other churches and organizations has become a program directed in part by members of the Latino community in the Skagit Valley.
The outcome of three summers of day camps is a plan to establish with the Latino community an after-school tutoring program beginning in October 2014. The school district, potential donors, and Latino leadership are coming together to make this a reality. Another possibility for meeting the needs of the children from the day camp is being plannd: the training of a group parents who want to begin a co-op preschool.
The leadership of Pastor Emilio Benitez, Francisco Lopez, Baudelina Paz, and Carol Rodin, Deacon Robin Ringland and Deacon Mark Blindheim believe that this is the work of the Holy Spirit. Pastor Benitez has taught us that the immigrant community of Skagit Valley is seeking “solidarity, not charity.” To quote one of the songs that the children sang every day, “Cristo te Necesita”:
No te importe la raza ni el color de la piel.
Ama a todos como hermanos y haz el bien.
It’s not important your race nor the color of your skin.
Love everyone like brothers and sisters and all will be well.
The participants had the privilege of working together as the Body of Christ. Thanks be to God. Demos gracias al Dios.
Church of the Redeemer Volunteers for 2014
These people volunteered in 2014 from Church of the Redeemer:
- John Pearson: 6th Grade Teacher
- Taught every day of the camp, July 21 through August 15
- Bill McGlinn: Food Director
- Attended board meetings throughout all of the year
- Assisted in training of teachers and volunteers for “Safe guarding God’s Children”
- Directed the set up of class room tents and the kitchen prior the camp
- Directed the school district representative and the camp volunteers in the kitchen and dining Area during the Camp
Bill McGlin provided the text for this article, and the two pictures of the 2014 Summer Day Camp.
La Iglesia Episcopal de la Resurrección, Mount Vernon WA
Somos una iglesia de la tradicion católica e histórica. Creemos en un Dios que ama a cada uno de nosotros sin distinción de raza, clase, edad, idioma o cultura. Celebramos la Santa Misa todos los domingos a las 6pm y esperamos verles aqui con nosotros.
We are a church of catholic tradition and history. We beleive in a God that loves each of us without distinction of race, class, age, language, or culture. We celebrate the Holy Mass every Sunday at 6:00 pm and we hope to see you here with us.
The church is located at 415 South 18th Street, Mt. Vernon, Washington 98274. Visit the Resurrección web site.
Church of the Redeemer
Church of the Redeemer is at 6210 181st Street in Kenmore, Washington. The campus is a short distance north of Bothell Way, near the Burke-Gilman Trail.
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