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Tyler's Camp provides 250 low-income kids with unique camp experience

Megan Pauly
Delaware Public Media
Chris Santantasio of Play on Philly! teachers music composition to kids at Tyler's Camp in Wilmington.

250 low-income middle school students have had the opportunity to participate in new camp called Tyler’s Camp: in remembrance of Salesianum student Tyler Brown who died in a March car crash.

Executive Director of the Summer Learning Collaborative Catherine Lindroth says the camp helps kids learn new things that they otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to do so: and help them find their identity along the way.


“This identity piece…if you can use summer as a way to help a child feel like, I’m special," Lindroth said. "And I’ve seen it here. I’ve seen a kid hit a baseball and suddenly light up and believe, I’m good at this.”


The camp is modeled after a Massachusetts summer camp for high income kids called EXPLO, because Lindroth says all kids deserve the best of the best.


The camps – running one week in June and August – are the bookends of a core summer curriculum that Lindroth and many other partners have been developing over the last four years.


Lindroth says the addition of the camps, which include over 17 different activities like animation, coding, theatre, music and sports, play a critical role in helping to close the achievement gap between low-income and high-income students.


Lindroth plans to analyze academic achievement data to measure the impact the camps are making on students’ success.

Credit Megan Pauly / Delaware Public Media
Delaware Public Media
Kids learn music composition skills Thursday at Tyler's Camp.

  Chris Santantasio is a high school orchestra conductor for Play on Philly! and has been teaching classes at the camp this week.


“They’re actually engaging in an artistic pursuit, they’re creating something from nothing," he said. "So just giving them really clear guidelines and then stepping away and allowing their creativity to kind of happen. Because it’s something that in their everyday lives over the summer they’re not challenged in that way.”


The camp has been made possible through the fundraising efforts of local high school students. Emma Derr knew Tyler Brown.


She was president of student council at Ursuline last year and suggested the use of multi-school fundraiser SALSTHON – that stands for Students About Life Saving – be used to create a summer camp for low-income kids.


“This year we sat down and we always ask the question what will save lives in our community. So we started brainstorming about what does it mean to save a life and what can give people a sense of purpose and meaning.”


Derr, having worked for the Summer Learning Collaborative, had seen the summer programming changing the lives of kids. And having known Tyler Brown, she said it’s something he would have wanted, too.


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