BASE Camp increases its scholarships

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By Cassandra West

BASE Camp, the summer program of the Oak Park Education Foundation, will offer more than 55 camp options across the STEAM spectrum this year. And more kids will be able to take advantage of the specialty camps, thanks to funding that will allow the foundation to offer more scholarships to families who couldn't otherwise afford an expense that could top $600 for four weeks.

"The whole idea around the scholarship program was born of the reality that there are two summers, depending on your economic circumstances," says Tracy Dell'Angela Barber, executive director. "One is full of enrichment and full of different kinds of experiences and maybe a morning of learning and then an afternoon with a parent. The reality for other families who are working really hard to make ends meet is that their kids don't necessarily access that kind of enrichment."

A foundation funder stepped up who is intentionally focused on of "eliminating the summer enrichment gap," says Dell'Angela. 

The foundation also put more emphasis on getting out the word about scholarships. It developed stronger connections with social workers "so they help us advertise early on," says Lindsay Bruce, BASE Camp director. "We also partnered with different community orgs like Strive for Success and Success for All Youth." Over the holiday season, postcards about BASE Camp scholarships were put in the food and gift baskets some families receive through the township.

Dell'Angela Barber says, "We used to have to hunt families and say, 'Hey, do you want a scholarship?' " It was completely transformed this year. Fifty percent of the (scholarship) spots were gone in five hours."

BASE Camp registration opened Jan. 31 and by early March was about 90 percent full. 

Ellie Edgeworth, 11, a rising fifth grader, received a scholarship last year and will get one this year, much to the delight of her mother, Lenita, who quickly paid a $40 per family co-pay fee. 

Edgeworth wasn't aware of the scholarships until a school staffer urged her to see whether the family would qualify. She seemed to relish the experience as much as Ellie, who took a Lego engineering and coding session, did. "It's not only a summer camp. It's more an opportunity for children to get a feel for what they like over the summer without the pressure of [a standard] curriculum."

Ellie will do the full four weeks of BASE Camp then finish up her summer at Hephzibah.

BASE Camp will run from June 11 to July 6 at Beye Elementary, 230 N. Cuyler Ave., and Percy Julian Middle School, 416 S. Ridgeland Ave.

SAY Connect is sponsored by the Good Heart Work Smart Foundation in partnership with Success for All Youth (SAY).

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