York City Assemblyman Scott Stringer, in a recent article,
painted a black picture for the education of children living
in New York City Shelters. In his 22 page report, he noted
that coordinating bus transportation for a highly mobile
student population and absenteeism were the major factors
contributing to a poor education for homeless children. With
increased absenteeism, homeless children often repeat grades
more often than their stable-residenced peers and are more
often to be placed in low performing schools because of their
poor school track records.
Rather than just a catch-up procedure of plugging in homeless
children into diverse programs at diverse schools, what if
out-of-school-time programs could offer a sound educational
supplement in a sustained way to support the mission and long-term
goals of the schools?
What if the Department of
Homeless Services could bus their facility children to after-school
programs during the critical hours of 3:00 to 6:00 PM, during
weekends, and during the summer? Better yet, what if program
providers could bring their programs to facility centers during
A strong program coupled with motivation to succeed and attend
have been the hallmarks of the CampUs program offered by the
After-School All-Stars (ASAS) of N.Y.C.
Inc., a chapter of the Arnold Schwartzenegger Youth Foundation,
and St. John's University.
During the past three summers, the Campus Program has served children in shelters
living in five to six Department of Homeless Services (DHS) facilities of the
Bronx and Manhattan. The program features academics including a reading, writing,
and graphic design project in a college computer lab; and swimming. All readings,
writings, and computer projects are thematically based in small groups and
in the computer lab.
One might think that a half-day of intensive reading,
writing, and focused computer work would be a “turn off” for
the children during the tradition vacation-time of summer. Not so! Each year,
DHS children made significant writing gains as measured by the New York State
English Language Arts scoring rubrics.
Other indicators told us, as well,
that DHS children were motivated to succeed. In 2004 use of a Reader Self-Perception
Scale (RSPC, as designed by William Henk and Stephen Melnick) revealed that
children's perceptions of themselves as competent readers improved significantly.
The Recreation Coordinator of the Jackson Avenue Family Residence, Bronx,
acknowledged the children's desire when she wrote, “Our
young people are not always easy to please but they were ecstatic about getting
up early to get to camp.” In addition, 45 children responded that their
writing got better and 41 children responded that their
reading got better.
CampUs shows that the right program ingredients offered in a sustained, coordinated
way can influence this highly mobile but eager population to succeed.#
is the Chair of the Department of Human Services at St. John's School of