AUBURN — United Way of DeKalb County, together with the Indiana United Ways, is sponsoring Kindergarten Countdown Camps.
The camps are a high-impact initiative targeted at increasing school readiness for 40 students in DeKalb Central schools and 40 students in Garrett-Keyser-Butler school s who will be entering kindergarten in the fall.
Children are invited to attend Kindergarten Countdown Camps based on kindergarten screenings. Licensed classroom teachers and instructional aides guide children through a four-week, half-day program that focus on developing skills in literacy, technology and social- emotional adjustment.
Both DeKalb Central and Garrett schools are running their Kindergarten Countdown Camps from June 5-30.
Each Kindergarten Countdown Camp participant will receive a free book every day that he or she attends class. The books complement the content of the class each day. Each child also receives a bookshelf to house his or her new home library. The bookshelves are made by volunteers from Walmart Distribution Center and Mike and Jeff Lauer of Anytime Fitness in Auburn.
Each child also receives a new backpack packed full of new school supplies. United Way of DeKalb County held a backpack drive on #GivingTuesday last year and collected 120 backpacks from local businesses, other nonprofit agencies, and many community members. An additional $320 was raised through a MobileCause effort on #GivingTuesday to aide in purchasing school supplies and books.
On April 21, United Way of DeKalb County held its 11th annual Power of the Purse event where women donated an additional $1,740 to Kindergarten Countdown Camps through online giving. These dollars also went toward purchasing books and supplies for “K-Camps.”
“Kindergarten Countdown Camp is one of my favorite programs!” said Kirby Cool, community impact coordinator for United Way. “Walking into K-Camps, I always enjoy seeing the kiddos working hard on counting or writing their names. One of the questions I always like to ask the them is: ‘What is your favorite part of camp?’
“I expect them to say recess, coloring or snacks, but almost every time they tell me ‘taking books home.’ As part of our early learning curriculum, Let’s Talk, we enjoy getting books into family’s hands and encourage parents to read to their children every day!” she added.
The Garrett-Keyser-Butler school district was able to pilot Kindergarten Countdown Camp in the county during the summer of 2014 and has been a participant ever since.
“Our Kindergarten Countdown Camp kids have been great! It is such a wonderful experience for everyone, because we can start to create friendships and relationships now before the school year even begins,” said Kelly Vangessel. “This can help ease so much of the nervousness for both the students and parents for when school does start in August! All of the teachers feel very blessed to be a part of such a great program. The United Way has created something amazing to help further the education of these kids!”
DeKalb Central is in its third year hosting Kindergarten Countdown Camp.
“Kindergarten Countdown Camp is a great opportunity for children to make a smooth transition into kindergarten,” said DeKalb Central Kindergarten Countdown Camp teacher Michelle Wagner. “It brings families, students, and schools together with the goal of preparing students for a successful start to kindergarten. This camp provides experiences for children to grow socially, emotionally, and academically.”
“It is amazing how much the campers grow in such a short amount of time!” added Kylie Myers, a Kindergarten Countdown Camp teacher at DeKalb Central.
The program outcomes will be measured using the Get Ready to Read assessment, and results will be compiled by United Way and shared with the community