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Partners HealthCare: Camp Harbor View and New Health Explorers Week

8/16/2011, 9:10 p.m.
Kyidea Bowen is working at Camp Harbor View as...
Kyidea Bowen is working at Camp Harbor View as a Leader-in-Training. The Leaders-in-Training program teaches positive reinforcement and peer learning. Partners HealthCare

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Kyidea Bowen is working at Camp Harbor View as a Leader-in-Training. The Leaders-in-Training program teaches positive reinforcement and peer learning.

For hundreds of young people from Boston, Camp Harbor View offers an escape from the city in the hot summer months, a respite from neighborhoods struggling with violence and a chance to experience the peaceful, natural beauty of Boston’s Harbor Islands.

The camp began in 2007 as a partnership between the city of Boston and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, and Partners HealthCare has been a supporter of the camp since it started. The camp’s main goal is for youngsters to have fun, and there are many ways to meet that goal. Among the long list of activities, campers can bike, swim, climb the rock wall, kayak to a nearby island and tap into their creative sides with artistic activities.

Beyond the fun, a dedicated staff of social workers, nurses and youth workers helps campers to build critical life and leadership skills by using a curriculum that focuses on five key areas — sports and fitness, arts/creative expression, aquatics, a learning component called knowledge is power and leadership.

The leadership program, called Leaders-in-Training (LITs) is rich in positive reinforcement and peer learning. It has grown from 30 participants in 2008 to 71 this summer. The LITs must have attended the camp for at least one year and participate in an educational component each morning in areas that focus on English and math. Some LITs work closely with group leaders while others work more independently with the campers.

The LITs are teenagers who have chosen to enjoy their summer months at camp, but also decided to challenge themselves to reach new goals, enrich their learning and share new growth with their peers. Derrick Stone, a 17-year-old LIT said, “I come from Roxbury and have seen some things, so I want these kids to appreciate Camp Harbor View. I don’t know where I’d be without it.”

Kyidea Bowen, a 15-year-old LIT originally from Philadelphia said, “This job has helped me to be more patient. I’ve learned to understand that I can be a friend to the campers, but I also have to know where to draw the line and be in charge too.”

Both Derrick and Kyidea are working to earn spots as LITs during the camp’s additional week in August this year — the Partners Health Explorers Program.

The Health Explorers Program is an extra week of camp that helps to fill the gap between the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. The program is an opportunity for campers to participate in typical camp activities and learn about health careers from working professionals. Campers will take part in hands-on science experiments and participate in the Partners Health Club where they will participate in activities related to healthy eating, fitness and stress management.

The Health Explorers Program helps kids to see the connections between education and careers in health care — all while having fun. Matt Fishman, vice president for Community Health for Partners HealthCare said, “Our participation in Camp Harbor View, and now with the Health Explorers Program, is at the heart of our mission of community health. We are committed to the young people and the neighborhoods we serve, and hope the skills the campers learn this summer will enable them to make healthy choices as they move forward in their school years and beyond.”

Camp Harbor View also offers a year-round support system for its campers. Campers and their families have opportunities to connect with each other and camp staff each month throughout the year. These connections allow for sustained learning and growth. Ronald Carroll, director of Leaders in Training for the camp said, “This is like a family. Once you come in, we put our arms around you and keep in touch.”

Camp Harbor View is the brainchild of Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Philanthropist and Chairman of the Board for Partners HealthCare, Jack Connors. It is funded through the Camp Harbor View Foundation, a nonprofit organization. To learn more, go to http://chvf.org/about-the-camp.