Lights, Camera, Action, and Big Dreams

By Grace Jin – 12th Grade, North Allegheny Senior High School

11211999_854658721277200_1485825695_oSparkly streamers and bright lights welcome me as I walk down the red carpet.  No, I am not an A-list celebrity. I am simply a visitor at “Camp Hollywood” – the 2015 Summer Dreamers Academy at Pittsburgh Langley.

Summer Dreamers, a no-cost academic camp that runs from June to August, began in 2010 with funding from the Pittsburgh Public School District. Educators aimed to target the summer slide – learning loss that occurs over the summer months – which places many economically disadvantaged students further behind their peers when they return to school in the fall. Since then, donations from community organizations have enabled Summer Dreamers to reach thousands of K-8th grade students.

I attended Summer Dreamers at Pittsburgh Obama Academy in 2010, its inaugural year. While school was the last thing I wanted to think about on a hot summer day, Summer Dreamers redefined my view on learning. Every morning, I read interesting books and strengthened my English skills (I was in an ESL program at school). Every afternoon, I rode a bus to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History to learn about earth science and biology. The combination of learning in the classroom and in the city not only made my summer meaningful, but also motivated me to go back to school ready to learn.

Bikers ready to go!

Bikers ready to go!

As a former Summer Dreamer, I was ecstatic to visit the growing program, now in its 5th year. With my tour guide Lexie, I saw that the over 300 students at  “Camp Hollywood” could choose activities to match their unique interests. The artsy kids turned mud into masterpieces at the “Clay & Mosaic Extravaganza,” got their creative juices flowing at “Oh! Sew Fabulous,” or read stories on the radio at “Radio Camp: You’re On the Air!” with the Saturday Light Brigade. Sports fans could play water polo, bike, horseback ride, or try out fencing and judo for the first time. At “Adventures in Movement,” young dancers Steph and Jennifer learned the choreography for an end-of-camp showcase on stage. Jennifer, a cheerleader at her elementary school, showed me some great moves while confidently sporting a bright pink “Hip Hop Diva” t-shirt. Dozens of other activities were offered by community groups and nonprofits, such as the Bloomfield/Garfield Corporation and Pittsburgh Cares.

Many activities offered by Summer Dreamers are ones that kids rarely, if ever, get a chance to try. Hopefully, as “Camp Hollywood” comes to a close, the Summer Dreamers will have enjoyed an engaging and meaningful experience just as I did. Hollywood star or not, a kid should always dream big.


For more photos from Camp Hollywood, click through the slideshow below.

Grace JinGrace Jin is a senior at North Allegheny Senior High School. She has edited for VARIATIONS magazine, won Scholastics awards, and published multiple art and writing pieces on Teen Ink print magazine. Grace lives in McCandless and loves to play piano, paint, and eat ice-cream.

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