This summer, rising middle school students in the Pittsburgh Public School District have been invited to a free five-week summer camp. The day-long camp, funded through stimulus dollars, will be focused around literacy.

“We are fortunate to be able to use the American Recovery Reinvestment Act funds for this,” said Allison McLeod, project manager. “What a great way to invest in our kids and keep kids learning in the summer. It’s a great time to do some fun activities and enrichment learning.”

The camp is another component of the district’s push to prepare students to take advantage of the Pittsburgh Promise, which provides scholarships for students pursuing secondary education. With literacy curriculum in the morning and educational extra circulars in the afternoon, the district hopes students will begin to develop a stronger passion for education.

“We hope that they leave the camp with an increase in their literacy skills. There’s a focus on literacy with what we’re doing in the district,” McLeod said. “We hope they leave with a new passion they might not have experienced before.”

More than 2,000 students have already registered for the camp. The deadline to enroll in the camp was recently extended to May 14 in an effort to ensure every student is able to participate.

“We just want to make sure the children have opportunities to have an enriching experience for free,” said Tanya Graham, literacy project manager. “A lot of times it’s not necessarily that kids don’t want to do things, but it can be expensive.”

Students were polled in the PPS to determine what topics were of most interest to them. Based on their responses, the literacy component will be comprised of two tracts with focuses on science and the arts.

“We want them to be fun activities so when kids come to the camp they definitely say I learned a lot, but I also have a lot of fun,” Graham said. “I really hope the campers just get more excited about literacy as a whole.”

Graham said education over the summer is extremely important for students because often times they lose some of what they’ve learned the year before.

“A big issue for all students is if they’re not getting an education over the summer, they’re losing what they learned,” said Graham. “I think what I’d obviously love to see is all kids grow and improve, but at least we want to provide an academic enrichment and some opportunity for their brains to be active.”

To date, 27 local organizations have partnered with the PPS, including Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, Venture Outdoors, The Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium, Gateway to the Arts, Marilyn G. Rabb Foundation, Three Rivers Fencing and Saltworks Theatre.

The camp will run July 12 through Aug. 13 from 8:15 a.m.-3:00 p.m., Mondays through Fridays. Campsites will be held at Pittsburgh Brashear High School, Pittsburgh CAPA High School, Pittsburgh South Brook 6-8, Pittsburgh Peabody High School, Pittsburgh King K-8 and Pittsburgh Obama 6-12.

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