Niagara University welcomed 40 pre-kindergarten and high school students to campus in July during two summer camps hosted by the university’s Levesque Institute for Civic Engagement.
Four- and five-year-olds enjoyed a variety of activities during Kindercamp, a free program designed specifically for young children entering kindergarten in September. As part of the early childhood arm of the institute, certified preschool and kindergarten teachers from the surrounding school districts spent the week of July 10-14 leading 28 children in songs, literary activities, outdoor play, and STEM projects that focused on four themes: pirates, ball games, the farm, and dinosaurs. Children were also introduced to traditional classroom procedures, such as listening attentively, following directions, and taking turns, to prepare them for school in the fall.
On the last day of camp, the students showcased what they learned and parents were given resources and information to help them support their children’s transition into kindergarten at home. There was also a celebration featuring face painting, balloon animals, water games, and other outdoor activities. Kindercamp is made possible through generous support from the Beaman Foundation.
From July 10-27, 12 Niagara Falls High School 11th and 12th grade students participating in NU’s Early College program took college-level courses and learned the skills necessary for their transition to higher education.
Students chose one of three courses and earned three tuition-free college credits from Niagara University. “Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Change” explored local and national examples of social movements to inspire the students to identify issues and advocate for change in their communities and within New York state; “Multicultural Education” explored the myths and origins of prejudice and discrimination; the issues of respect, appreciation, and celebration of diversity; and the importance of mental health awareness in the educational setting; and “Introduction to Art History” took students on a tour of history and the world through the appreciation of art and included a visit to Niagara’s on-campus Castellani Art Museum. All courses were taught by Niagara University faculty.
In the afternoon, the students learned essential college skills focused on five key areas: reading and understanding syllabi; time management; career options and pathways; research and writing skills; and establishing a successful professor-student relationship.
Early College is a four-year program offered in partnership with the Niagara Falls City School District under the institute’s community outreach pillar to engage students in grades 9-12 in college and career exploration.
“The summer camps help prepare children for these critical transitions,” said Rhonda Bivins-Talley, executive director of the Levesque Institute. “Kindercamp offers developmentally appropriate learning experiences and activities that build and strengthen the skills necessary for kindergarten, and Early College helps to bridge the gap for college and career readiness by familiarizing students with the skills required and resources available to help them overcome obstacles to academic success.”
The Levesque Institute was established in 2011 to assist in the revival of the city of Niagara Falls and the Western New York region through four pillars: revitalization, health and wellness, early childhood, and community outreach. Within each pillar, programs and projects are designed with measurable outcomes that seek to bring systemic change to address community needs with community partners. This model of collective impact will be encouraged through a systems thinking for social change approach.