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'Village Project' Summer Camp concludes with poetry & music

Sixty children taking part in the "It Takes a Village" Project for young readers shared stories and displayed artwork on July 18, 2014, to parents and civic leaders who visited campus to celebrate the end of a summer program.

Students in the Village Project Summer Camp perform an African harvest dance as part of the camp's closing ceremony on July 18, 2014.

The first summer camp organized by Elon University’s “It Takes a Village” Project concluded Friday with song, dance and art by children who spent the previous two weeks on campus honing their reading and writing skills.

The early afternoon ceremony in the lobby of Lindner Hall welcomed families of five dozen children already familiar with the “Village” and the resources it makes available throughout the year to aid struggling readers.

Art adorned the walls of the lobby and children took turns reading poetry, sharing excerpts from journals, demonstrating a West African harvest dance and performing on African drums. Organizers created the two-week camp specifically to counter the loss of learning that millions of children experience each summer when away from school for extended periods.

“This is our first summer in the Village, and ‘wow!’ That’s all I can say!” said Associate Professor Jean Rattigan-Rohr, founder of the Village Project and director of Elon University’s Center for Access and Success. “Our students have made such great strides as we’ve learned so much together, and our parents are thrilled.”

The summer camp was funded by a $10,000 gift from the Wells Fargo Foundation and came at no cost to families. Elon University faculty and staff volunteered to teach courses, as did other members of the local community including students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program in the School of Health Sciences.

Jerry A. Bailey, senior vice president and market president for Wells Fargo in Burlington, North Carolina, praised the Village Project and Elon University.

Students in the Village Project Summer Camp read "The New Vestments" by British poet Edward Lear.

“It’s so important that children of all ages have year-round access to books and increased reading motivation, and parents consistently cite summer as the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do,” Bailey said in his Friday afternoon opening remarks. “When you think of everyone involved in the program, it’s clear that it indeed ‘takes a village’ to educate and prepare our children for the future.”

The "It Takes a Village" Project uses a collaborative approach to help children in the community who are struggling to read. During the fall and spring semesters, children and Elon University students majoring in education are paired for weekly tutoring sessions at May Memorial Library in downtown Burlington.

While in an environment rich with available resources, the preservice teachers assess the individual reading challenges of the children and show their parents different techniques they can use at home to help improve reading skills. The program has since been modeled on college campuses elsewhere in North Carolina and Oregon. It has drawn interest and support from several philanthropic foundations, including the Switzerland-based Oak Foundation, which in 2010 made a gift of more than $200,000 to support the project.

The "Village" has also expanded in recent years with the addition of science and music components that broaden children's ability to think critically and creatively about their worlds.

Elon University President Leo M. Lambert concluded the program with a message for the children seated on the floor before him. “Each and every one of you is a special gift from God,” he said, “and I want to thank you for sharing with us such enormous talents.”

Lambert told the students that school was critical for reaching their dreams. He encouraged them to dream of being doctors and teachers, engineers and nurses, and poets and artists.

“All of those things are possible, and it is so important for you to dream about what you can be when you grow up,” he said. “Education and learning is the path that makes those dreams come true … and the world needs bright young people like you.”

Elon University president Leo M. Lambert thanks the students, families and teachers for participating in the Village Project Summer Camp.

Eric Townsend,
7/18/2014 2:50 PM