Summer camp now even better - School Settlement Association day camp receives $40,000 grant for field trips

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Thanks to a $40,000 grant, the School Settlement Association day camp (120 Jackson Street) will take better field trips than ever before.

The one-time grant came from Elite Learning of Brooklyn, a charitable non-profit that raises funds for educational enrichment. The grant is earmarked specifically for field trips.

This summer, the eight-week camp – which serves 80 area children ages 5-12 – will be able to take trips to places like the American Museum of Natural History, the New York Aquarium, Liberty Science Center, the Bronx Zoo and Six Flags Great Adventure.

Camp personnel stressed that more importantly, these trips will be first-class: No longer will counselors have to worry about taking 80 children on the subway; instead, the grant will pay for buses. It will also enable the camp to pay for interactive activities on the trips.

“We go on all types of trips during the summer, but they’re not fantastic trips,” Luis Manzi, associate executive director of School Settlement Association, told a group of campers at a press conference at the Settlement House on Monday.

“Without Elite Learning, we wouldn’t be able to have as fantastic a summer as we otherwise would have.”

Anthony Torres, a 10-year-old camper, said field trips were the best part of the camp. His favorite trip was to Aviator Sports, during which campers learned ice skating and rock climbing.

“It’s a great opportunity – we’re getting more money for more trips,” he said.

School Settlement Association runs two day camps, one at the Jackson Street Settlement House itself and one at PS 34 (131 Norman Avenue). This grant was specifically intended for the one at Jackson Street.

Explaining why the grant was earmarked for field trips, Denise Gallasso of Elite Learning (428 Humboldt Street) said, “We think that learning outside of the four walls of the classroom is a necessity. A lot of these kids don’t have the means to go to these places.”

The grant continues the dramatic turnaround that the 104-year-old School Settlement Association has made in the past two years.

In 2006, it was in dire financial straits. But a $100,000 grant from Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, along with a strategic partnership with St. Nicholas Neighborhood Preservation Corporation, kept it afloat.

Soon, it will benefit from a $500 million capital budget allocation that Councilwoman Diana Reyna helped secure for this fiscal year. The grant will be put toward refurbishing the building’s interior.

Elected officials and representatives from St. Nicholas were on hand at Monday’s press conference.

“Thanks to Elite Learning and School Settlement, these children have an amazing enrichment opportunity that will someday help them compete in the global job market,” said Lentol.

“But let’s worry about the job market later. For right now, we are just very lucky to have a program that lets these children have a great summer.”

The School Settlement Association started 104 years ago. It was part of the progressive Settlement House movement of the era, in which immigrants who had achieved professional success reached out to new immigrants to ease the assimilation into the United States.

Michael Rochford, executive director of St. Nicholas, said this desire to uplift new immigrant groups “is a strong, still-reverberating commitment in this neighborhood today.”

Reyna called the School Settlement Association “an anchor in our community for 100 years. We want it to be here for another 100 years.”

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