Communities In Schools, City Year Lead Camping Trip for Diplomas Now Students
Nine students at Browne Junior High School in Washington, DC, enjoyed a special treat thanks to Diplomas Now partners Communities In Schools and City Year. Earlier this summer, CIS site coordinator Karen Peters and three City Year corps members took nine 7th grade girls on a camping trip to Pocahontas State Park, more than two hours away in Richmond, Va.
The girls, all of whom participate in Peters’s weekly supportive guidance group that focuses on building self-esteem and positive peer relationships, were new to camping; only two had ever been before. Each came to Peters’s group after displaying early warning indicators that signal they could eventually drop out of school. “These are girls who were struggling,” says Peters, but happily on the camping trip “all of these girls in their own way have made good use of their opportunity to participate.”
In weekly group meetings, Peters leads an activity to build social skills and to better manage emotions. These activities range from art projects to juggling games, in which all of the students have to work together to achieve a common goal. Peters envisioned the camping trip as a way to bring group members to a new setting beyond the safe haven of her classroom. “I wanted to help them see that they could translate those skills to a foreign environment. Take positive social risks, be brave, helpful, a part of the solution. Be silly and act like a 7th grader,” she explains.
To do so, Peters and City Year designed an agenda in which “the content and the process of the trip were both a learning experience,” says Peters. “The whole trip was a group activity. Putting up the tents was a group activity – it was frustrating, but they did it. Making lunch was a group activity. Everything was an opportunity to work together.”
Peters worried that all her planning had been for naught when a massive thunderstorm hit their campsite at 1 a.m. But instead it turned out to be the best group opportunity of all. A few girls were scared of the thunder, but by the time the adults were up and trying to make them feel safe, the other students already had started to reassure their classmates. “The girls started asking each other if they were okay,” recalls Peters. “When you hear stuff like that, it makes you think it’s all worth it.”
The girls still have one more year at Browne, and Peters hopes to repeat the trip next year. “They’re all excited to go again,” she says.