Summer at Courtyard Enrichment Program

A Successful Sophomore Summer

By Eleanor Ingersoll

There were still science experiments and trips to the splash-ground at Shot Tower Recreational Center, but for its second season, the Summer at Courtyard expanded to four days of programming that included therapeutic art instruction, golf lessons, and, most importantly, kids from all over Queen Village spending their summer together.

The sophomore effort for 2016 was an ambitious one, as programming partnerships with Southwark Queen Village Community Garden and GlaxoSmithKline were replaced with The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia and Therapeutic Art lessons from Professor Kathryn Snyder. Also, the 6-week free program, (Monday-Thursday, 8:30-2:30) would open its doors to all Queen Village kids.

The regular schedule was as follows: science experiments with Science Explorers on Monday mornings with Monday afternoons spent shooting baskets in the gym or running in the splash-ground at Shot Tower Rec Center. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, a bus took the group to FDR Park for golf instruction with the First Tee program, where the kids ate lunch and got to go to the playground before the bus ride home. (And let’s not forget the weekly water ice treats for these kids who doubted they could hit a golf ball, and turned out to be really good!) On Thursdays, Therapeutic Art instruction was lead by students of Professor Snyder, with afternoons returning to Shot Tower Rec Center.

The first four weeks were locked in and ready to go. It was a departure from last summer’s multiple trips around the city, but QVNA was doubling its programming from 2 to 4 days, and a good amount of the trips; to the Zoo, the Penn Museum, Bartram’s Garden, were excursions the kids had made in past summers or with their school. But swinging a golf club on a golf green? That was a first for almost all the kids.

The Democratic National Convention presented a challenge as it took over FDR Park for the last week in July. Then a golf tournament took instructors out of town for first week in August – our last week of camp. But thanks to QVNA Board member, Justin Fishman, the tempo for Summer at Courtyard would not miss a beat. Fishman, who was already key in organizing volunteers to help with afternoon sports drills at Shot Tower Rec, pulled some amazing strings in the professional sports world as well: securing group tickets behind Home Plate for a Phillies Game, and locking down a visit from Eagles Wide Receiver Jordan Matthews, who not only signed autographs, but tossed a football and shot hoops with the kids!

The athletic theme seemed to organically fill the First Tee vacancies as our summer program coordinator, Daniel Clark, brought in friends from the Philadelphia Fury professional soccer team to lead drills. Other kids participated in Double Dutch instruction with Coach Cassandra Lee of the Jumping Jems DD Team. There was also the fair amount of animal/reptile time; the Academy of Natural Sciences returned with a presentation “Amazing Adaptations” and there was a visit from Scott Prior’s “Snake Party.”

As we look forward in planning for the summer of 2017, what were the keys to success this summer? One would be the $3,000 sponsorship that Justin Fishman secured from Genesis Healthcare. But money can only help build on a foundation of partnerships. So it is our partnership with Director Jennifer Cox and Maintenance Engineer Frank Ward at Shot Tower that gave us an alternate location for activities. It’s our partnership with Professor and Art Psychotherapist, Kathryn Snyder, (who mentored art instructors Mariya Keselman and Kristyn Stickley), that bought Therapeutic Art to Thursday mornings. It’s the partnership with Coaches Phil Blonski and Rebecca Ciamano at The First Tee that introduced golf to our participants, and it’s the amazing crew that puts the hours into making the program run smoothly: Barry Perrin, Inez ‘Kandi’ Green, Tasha McNight, Charlotte Smith, Daniel Clark, and Yael Levin. Thanks to all these people, we had a surprise waiting list this year, and look forward to bringing more neighborhood kids together next summer!