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Devin D. Thorpe

Devin Thorpe

The Family Connection Kindercamp Doubles Teaching Staff, Seeks To Improve Education Outcomes For U.S. Virgin Island Youth

Non-Profit Summer Camp Hopes to Raise $45,000 For 2016 Program to Boost Long-Term Sustainability 

Press Release – NEW YORK – April 4, 2016 – The U.S. Virgin Islands are more than white sandy beaches and tourist attractions. There is an education crisis on the island – 83% of 3rd-11th graders failed National English standards and 93% didn’t meet expectations in math. In an effort to combat these troubling numbers, The Family Connection Kindercamp is expanding its teaching staff to provide individualized attention to students who are most at risk. This six-week non-profit summer camp on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, intervenes early in a child’s education through a child-led curriculum that puts the students in the driver’s seat, allowing them to be in charge of each days’ lesson plans. Such a method requires individualized attention for each student.

Nearly all children who have participated in the program saw immediate improvements, according to an independent review of the program by Elizabeth Jaeger, Ph.D., a former Assistant Professor of Psychology at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, PA. This year, the program is doubling the number of teachers from four to eight, while maintaining a class size of 80 students to lower the teacher-student ratio even further in its third summer.

The Family Connection Kindercamp will accept 80 students this summer after serving 105 children over its first two years. The program was co-founded by the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands along with Thelca Bedminster, a local elementary school principal, and Nicholas Midler.

This year, Midler hopes to raise $45,000, increasing from the $31,000 budget allocated to the 2015 program in order to accommodate the growing faculty. Midler and his team are in the middle of their fundraising efforts now, and plan to complete this year’s fundraising efforts by late May or early June. In the past, The Family Connection Kindercamp has received generous donations from companies such as Fintrac Inc., Sea Glass Properties, and Quantico. Midler hopes to interest cruise lines, and airlines that do business in the Virgin Islands, other local businesses, and foundations focused on early childhood education and disadvantaged youth in supporting the program and local population.

The Family Connection Kindercamp has its roots in Midler’s childhood in the Virgin Islands. Midler and his family lived in St. Thomas for five years while he was in middle and elementary school, where he was able to see first-hand the problems with the local education system. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, 57% of youth entering kindergarten test poorly on language skills, 47% of children 18-19 don’t have high school degrees. These jarring statistics spurred Midler to join with the Community Foundation and enlist Ms. Bedminster to try to tackle the problem at its earliest point.

“I know firsthand that personalized attention in the classroom can make all the difference,” said Midler. “I have dyslexia, and I was the last person in my class to read and write. I had a supportive classroom environment to help me succeed despite this challenge, and all young students deserve that same chance at success.” Studies have proven the effectiveness of early intervention: a Highscope study of Perry Preschool found that every dollar invested in pre-K saw a return of $12.90 over the child’s lifetime.

“Six weeks might not seem like a lot of time, but you’d be surprised what can be accomplished,” said Thelca Bedminster, program director of The Family Connection Kindercamp. “By the time our kids leave the program they are able to recite their ABCs and count to 100. We also saw increases in self-regulatory skills, knowledge of school routines and culture and, most importantly, a love of school.”

Bedminster points to one child who only spoke French Creole at the start of the program and could only indicate her name with its first letter. By the end of the program, the child was able to verbally communicate her needs to the teachers. According to Jaeger, staff were so impressed with the child-led learning activities that they planned to introduce them into their regular classrooms during the school year.

About Family Connection Kindercamp

The Family Connection Kindercamp is a registered 501(c)(3) organization that is operated and funded through a public-private partnership model. The program uses research-based, child-led curriculum to provide its students with a leg-up into kindergarten with an eye towards future academic success. By intervening early, the camp hopes to pave a smooth and successful academic future for all of its enrollees.

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