Free Richmond summer camp helping to close achievement gap

Free Richmond summer camp helping to close achievement gap
Photo courtesy of the City of Richmond.

A free summer camp serving Richmond’s lowest-income neighborhoods has continued to report positive student gains.

Camp Achieve, offered since 2013 to combat summer learning loss for students between the ages of six and 12, serves over 300 students each year at the Parchester Village, Shields-Reid, Nevin and Booker T. Anderson community centers. The camp is separate from the city-operated Elevate Summer Camp, which costs $68 per week and is held at the May Valley Community Center and Richmond Recreation Complex.

Enriched by WCCUSD teachers, structured activities and field trips to local parks and museums, the 9-week Camp Achieve is a collaboration between the city of Richmond, West Contra Costa Ed Fund, West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD), and many other community partners. The program was established to meet a dire shortage of affordable day camps in the city, said Troy Porter, Richmond Recreation Coordinator, in a presentation to City Council Tuesday.

Enriching, structured summer camps are central to closing the achievement gap, says Porter.

In comparing WCCUSD Accelerated Reader benchmark assessments from before and after the camp, participating K-3 students showed a Grade Equivalent increase from 2.98 in Spring 2018 to 3.17 in Fall 2018, according to Porter. Meanwhile, older students exhibited no drop in learning during summer 2018, which was the aim, Porter said.

“In 2017, campers reading assessment scores increased by 4 months, as opposed to a 2-3 month learning loss over the summer,” according to the Ed Fund.

A survey of participating parents show that without Camp Achieve, a majority of area children would not attend a camp.

In the survey, 52 percent of parents said they would have otherwise had their kids stay home and “basically do nothing,” Porter said. Another 21 percent said the kids would stay with relatives, while just 15 percent said they’d look for another camp.

Porter attributes the camp’s success to strong community partnerships. The camp offers a balanced curriculum that includes academics and literacy, physical activity and enrichment. WCCUSD funds the teachers who instruct morning curriculum. Every two weeks, the camp has themes including healthy living, local history, a science-based gizmos and gadgets and performing arts. During the history theme, students visit the Rosie the Riveter Visitors Center and Richmond Museum of History. The East Bay Center for Performing Arts assists during the performing arts theme for the camp.

Other partners helping enrich the camp include the Richmond Art Center, Lego Robotics, Berkeley Chess School, Read Aloud Volunteer Program and more, Porter said.

Porter said camp organizers will continue to track student gains. The city provides about $50,000 in annual funding for the camp, with significant funds also coming from WCCUSD and the Ed Fund.

On-site registration for Camp Achieve this summer begins May 1 at the four community centers. Signups occur on a first-come, first-served basis, and the camp is typically full by May 2.

Mayor Tom Butt called the camp a great service to the city of Richmond’s parents.