On Monday, August 5, the Auburn Gresham (AG) Gold summer camp had a very special visitor. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Janice Jackson dropped in at the AG Gold camp at Cook elementary to participate in the Harambee opening circle as well as read aloud to the campers as part of their morning practice. Harambee, which in Swahili means “pull together,” is a practice from the Freedom Schools movement. AG Gold campers begin each day with a high-energy motivational routine, including chants and cheers.
The Auburn Gresham Gold Schools initiative is a collaboration between the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC) and a number of strategic partners including Illinois State University Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline (CTEP). ISU CTEP and GAGDC have been collaborating on the AG Gold summer camp experience for nine years. The vision for the camp is to provide an exceptional enrichment summer experience for the students that attend the five AG Gold elementary schools: Barton, Cook, Joplin, Oglesby, and Westcott. Serving approximately 50 students per summer, the camp strives to build on the literacy and academic initiatives that take place during the school year so students can continue their learning in a safe, fun environment over the summer.
Each year, ISU education students participating in the CTEP Summer Teacher Education Partnership for Urban Education (STEP-UP) intern in the AG Gold camp, co-teaching alongside CPS teachers, some of whom were ISU STEP-UP fellows themselves. Campers receive instruction in literacy and math in the morning as well as enrichment in areas such as dance, tumbling, and healthy eating in the afternoon.
“Participating in the AG Gold camp gave me insights into the Auburn Gresham community and allowed me to connect with students from area schools. I loved having the opportunity to provide students with a positive and fun environment for the majority of the summer,” said Katy Reed, ISU music education major and STEP-UP fellow.
“The Gold camp taught me how to connect with students and coworkers alike,” added Robert Wall, special education major and STEP-UP fellow.
“I was able to work alongside some of the greatest educators in Chicago Public Schools, create a culturally responsive pedagogy and form lifelong relationships with incredible members of the community,” said Nadya Chiavola, elementary education major and STEP-UP fellow.
“As a graduate of CTEP and a former STEP-UP fellow, it was a full circle experience being able to give back to a program that has given me so much,” said Lizzy Carroll, AG Gold camp instructor and special education teacher at Barton elementary
Jackson’s visit was extra special as she herself is a graduate of Cook Elementary and was excited about the invitation to see CPS students thriving at her old school. As she noted on her twitter feed later that day, “Best part of my job is getting to spend time with students,” thanking GAGDC for inviting her back to Cook as the camp’s special guest reader. ISU students and graduates were thrilled to see AG Gold camp receive this significant and well-deserved recognition.