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Over 90% of our graduates complete high school within four years, in a city with an on-time high school graduation rate that hovers around 65%.

Gesu Academic Summer Camp: Curbing Summer Learning Loss

Under the leadership of Eighth Grade Teacher, Laura Weatherly, Gesu School’s summer curriculum balances academics with fun to help curb summer learning loss. Ms. Weatherly has been actively involved in Gesu’s Academic Summer Camp for over 15 years, as a Teacher and as Director.

The 2016 camp provided programming for 60 students, ranging from those who have completed Pre-K through rising 8th graders. The camp is open to not only Gesu School students, but also students from the surrounding community.

Ms. Weatherly describes the camp’s overarching objective: “The main goal is to keep children academically challenged, so they don’t have the ‘summer slide.’ We’re able to combat that for five weeks—half of the summer.” In addition to classroom instruction, the camp also provides books and materials for students’ use at home. 

Trained teachers share their expertise in each classroom, and Teachers’ Aides are most often Gesu School alumni, who return to their alma mater to connect with their Gesu community. Classes focus on reading, writing, math, and study skills. Older students even receive regular homework. To help students continue to build their reading skills through the summer, those in Kindergarten through 3rd grade participate in Read by 4th, a program managed by The Free Library of Philadelphia.

Volunteers also contribute their skill sets and bring enrichment to the camp. For over eight years, Joe Herbst has helped students sharpen their math skills. Keith Pension, Gesu Board Member, and Lori Eckert have shared a unique opportunity for students to experience the traditional Japanese art form of Gyotaku and create vibrant imprints on t-shirts.

Special onsite programming allows students to explore new interests, while keeping active. A representative from the National Constitution Center visited for multiple interactive presentations on African Americans in early history and what life was like for children during colonial times in Philadelphia—from games, to school, to attire. Down the Line and Beyond Foundation provided tennis instruction once a week. Additionally, girls in each grade participated in activities through Girl Scouts. The camp offered swimming at a public pool and hopes to have on-site swimming next summer, pending staffing of a lifeguard.

Campers even took a field trip to North Wildwood through Children's Fresh Air Home, an organization that offers a day at the beach for students from urban communities. They enjoyed their time in the sand and surf! Read more about campers’ trip in the article “Fresh Air Home Offers ‘Summer Retreat’ for Phila. Children” in the Cape May County Herald.

Gesu’s Academic Summer Camp blends academics with summer fun, while meeting the needs of working parents and offering a safe environment for students to continue learning and growing.