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Happy Campers: Success Club at Hope for Miami

Here's how Hope for Miami's Success Club program helps nurture teens with disabilities through their summer camp activities.

Mercedes Parada, summer camp Program Manager for Hope for Miami's Success program, recently shared with us the goals, activities and special features involved. Background: The Success Club serves teens with disabilities and provides academic support and teaches life skills, including social-emotional learning (SEL), independent living, and job skills. Summer camp activities for these youth took place at four different locations throughout Miami: Great Heights Academy South campus, Miami Central, Felix Varela and John A. Ferguson Senior High Schools. Hi Mercedes, describe for us the summer camp activities. All the services and activities cater to the age group and demographic within respective groups. Things like field trips, art and recreation activities, educational lesson executions, exposure to etiquette skills, and collaboration with partner companies are involved. We focus on insuring an accessible and inclusive environment for all the campers. Specifically, the placement of volunteers in campsites facilitates and amplifies the socializing efforts the Hope for Miami staff make every day. Emphasizing learning words of affirmation and socializing skills has resulted in happier, more confident participants.

Physical Fitness: We use the SPARK fitness curriculum in each of our camps. SPARK provides physical activity and nutrition guides that promote lifelong wellness in youth through the encouragement of physical activity, the development of feasible movements and manipulative skills, and the advancement of socialization skills in moving environments. Since each of our four sites is unique, each one has a different favorite activity. Most of the youth’s favorite activities involve tactile manipulation, especially artistic projects. Varela Senior High’s consensus was that decorating cookies was the best activity this year!

Educational focus: The educational activities the campers participate in include individual groups that work on reading and math skills. Depending on the level of each group, lessons target different areas of proficiency. For example, the "Mad Science" themed camp had a more science-based curriculum. Campers participated in scientific projects like building rockets, making slime, investigating crystals, and more.

Field Trips: We supplemented our recreational and educational activities with field trips at the four sites. Attendees visited the zoo, went bowling, toured Shark Valley, and saw a theatrical performance.

Fun Camp Themes: One of the most engaging parts of the summer camps is undoubtedly the themes each campsite is assigned: Help Protect Our Earth, Out Of This World, Visit The Wild Wild West, Travel To The 7 Continents, Become A Mad Scientist, See Storybooks Come To Life, Lego To Summer Camp, Be A Detective Solve Cases, and Join Us Under The Big Top (Circus). These themes are represented via decorations, signs, and posters. In Varela High and Ferguson High, the lesson plans teachers craft are specifically catered to the themes. These campsites offer their services to teens with disabilities in grades 6 to 12 and students up to age 22.

Finally, how do you think Hope For Miami has helped contribute to the flourishing of our Miami communities?

HFM provides the special needs population of neighborhoods an opportunity to have a safe place to go. It provides field trip experiences, it offers tutoring services, and remediation of what has been learned in school. The camps refine critical thinking skills, increase health, improve socialization, help children make friends, and generally create good experiences for them. Thanks, Mercedes for your leadership and heart for what the Success program seeks to accomplish!

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