The Salvation Army helps kids retain what they've learned over the summer

The Salvation Army helps kids retain what they’ve learned over the summer

Anchorage Korean Corps Officers Captains Minhee and Richard Lee know education is important. In their last three corps appointments as Salvation Army officers, the pair has held educational summer camps for youth in Las Vegas, Phoenix and now Anchorage. Their goal? To keep kids from backsliding academically in the summer.

A study published in the American Educational Research Journal found the average 1st-8th grader lost up to 34 percent of the prior school year’s learning gains over the summer. Add to that pandemic learning loss. To stave off further loss, the Anchorage Korean Corps held a summer day camp for children in 1st-5th grade focused on reading, math and having fun from July 5-28.

“We’re just spreading hope for the community, and hope for the school education and hope for the future kids’ education,” Richard Lee said. “This way, they can learn a little bit more.”

After talking with community members, Lee said about 60 percent of the students the corps serve struggle with English, including those who were originally from Alaska. Lee said the corps prepared for the camp to serve about 20 kids based on the previous years’ numbers, but the 2022 camp grew to about 30 students.

In the camp, held Tuesday through Thursdays, students covered math, reading and writing before lunch, which the corps provided. Then it was time for play and learning music or art, followed by jump rope or badminton. On Thursdays, the group took field trips in the community.

Lee said all of these elements served as opportunities to help the kids think about others, another goal of the camp.

The Salvation Army helps kids retain what they've learned over the summer

Courtesy Alaska Division.

“We tell them to clap your hands for everybody who did the cooking for your meal,” he said. “Then also, having younger kids appreciate the older kids. So that way, they can help each other riding the bus or riding the car. We mix it with the younger kids and the older kids so they can take care of each other.”

During the day, kids were broken into groups, supported by volunteers—many of whom were the older siblings of kids in the program.

Jenny Park assisted the Lees with running the camp. Park, who originally came to the corps to volunteer about a decade ago, has since been a member of the congregation.

“I love everything about volunteering at The Salvation Army,” she said, noting her ability to speak both English and Korean helps when interpretation is needed.

Park knows the impact of the camp offerings first hand—her kids were in the program. She said she’s seen the impact of what two years of being “cut off from the whole society” has been for them. Now camps are back, but she said they can be expensive. The corps’ camp aimed to keep the cost low at $30 a week.

“Being able to reach out to kids and do a little bit of the service of God, like spreading the Word and listening to that, I think that was just a really good thing besides just the camp itself,” said Park.

Leaders noted the name Korean Corps might be misleading—the camp is for everyone.

“Our program is always very interracial; we have many different cultures, and I think that’s a positive impact,” Park said. “We try to involve at least a little something traditional Korean and the kids always enjoy that. Either it’s food or doing a craft or learning a little something about the culture.”

A highlight? The traditional seaweed roll—something Park said was picked because it was simple enough for the students to take home and make for their parents. She said the feedback from the experience has been positive from both parents and campers.

“I think that camp was really needed emotionally,” Park said. “Of course, the camp physical part, but mentally, we just all needed some of that—the Jesus love.”

Do Good:

  • You’ve probably seen the red kettles and thrift stores, and while we’re rightfully well known for both…The Salvation Army is so much more than red kettles and thrift stores. So who are we? What do we do? Where? Right this way for Salvation Army 101.
  • Are you best suited to join the Fight for Good in disaster relief? Mental health? Social justice? Take our What’s Your Cause quiz and discover where you can make the biggest impact today.
  • Learn how The Salvation Army is creating a safe place for every child to learn in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood.
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Hillary Jackson

Hillary Jackson is Managing Editor of Caring, where she keeps her finger on the pulse of The Salvation Army and her eyes on the day’s headlines—all in the name of creating smart, impactful content that prompts action. With an insatiable love of information and heart for the underdog, she believes stories to be one of the best ways to understand and empathize with others. Hillary has worked around the world covering the Olympic Games, and her words have appeared in outlets including Washington Post, The Week, The Muse and Architectural Digest. Hillary holds a master’s degree in journalism from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She was a finalist for a pair of National Arts and Entertainment Journalism (NAEJ) Awards as well as for the Religion Newswriters Association’s Chandler Student Award for “The PK Project,” a multimedia experience chronicling the stereotypes facing preacher’s kids versus reality. When she’s not word slinging, you’ll find her walking her West Highland Terrier, Nessie.