At this after-school program, everyone feels like family

“Carver is a place where everyone is family. We help each other, we work together, we build stuff, and we have a lot of memories here. Carver is Carver. There’s no place like it. I can’t explain it. It’s just Carver.”

That's nine-year-old Thamisha, when she was asked to describe Carver to someone who has never heard of the organization.

Thamisha is one of two hundred students enrolled in Carver’s summer enrichment program at the community center in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Carver is Norwalk’s largest provider of after-school programs for middle and high school students, and the largest provider of summer programs serving kindergarten through ninth grade students.

Together, Carver and Norwalk public schools are working to close the achievement gap.

The affordable summer programs at Carver address the issue of the “summer slide” academic loss by providing literacy and math sessions, as well as recreational activities with partners such as the Girl Scouts, the Discovery Museum, and the Maritime Aquarium.

Filling the summer gap is crucial to keep students on track, especially for families who may not otherwise have the resources to further their children’s academic development over the summer.

Thamisha was one of 200 students the author interviewed this summer to learn more about the positive effects of Carver. Thamisha was one of 200 students the author interviewed this summer to learn more about the positive effects of Carver. (Photo: Carver Foundation)

This summer, I was lucky to have the opportunity to get to know the students who participate in these programs. I conducted interviews with more than thirty of the campers and gained insight into the role that Carver has played in their lives.

As someone who had never been to Carver prior to this summer, speaking with these children helped me learn firsthand what Carver is really about. Not only was I surprised by the students’ willingness to open up about their hopes and dreams, but I was also surprised by their sense of awareness at such a young age.

Their profoundly moving answers illustrate the joy that Carver has brought into their lives.

Though it is clear that Carver helps children academically, Carver also helps students discover what they might want to focus on in the future.

Thamisha, age eleven, realized that Carver could help her become a doctor, like her mother: “When you’re a doctor, you need to know the person, their problems, and their feelings. You also need to know science, which teaches you about the human body, and I think Carver teaches me both of those things.”

Jaylah smiles Jaylah was struggling with math before she received tutoring from Carver's Youth Development Program. Photo: Carver Foundation)

Jayla, age eleven, remarked on the positive effect Carver has had on her performance in school: “I’m proud of getting honors all four quarters this past school year. At my previous school, I was struggling a lot, but then I got better at my new school."

"My new school had different resources which helped me, but I also came here [to Carver] after school. I was struggling with math, and Carver provided tutoring for me.”Carver’s CASPER program offers hands-on learning to K-5 students in science, literacy, and math, and the Youth Development Program offers a wide range of programs (from tutoring to SAT prep to college tours) for middle and high school students.

Carver does much more than simply tutor kids. It provides them with a sense of community and insight into the importance of working together with people.

Carver also helped Jayla realize what she wants to be when she grows up: “I could see myself being an Olympic swimmer. I’m not swimming much right now, but I’m getting back into it. I love when we go swimming on Fridays at Carver. When we go to the Y, we get lessons and that helps a lot.”

Young student Allen smiles at camera Allen's favorite part of Carver's summer camp is the new friendship he makes. (Photo: Carver Foundation)

The weekly field trips to the Wilton YMCA are just one of the many places campers visit as part of the Summer Enrichment program. Students travel to bowling alleys and movie theaters, as well as yearly trips to amusement parks like Rye Playland and Lake Compounce.

But the most memorable part of the students' summers might be making new friendships.

Allen, age ten, reflects: “My favorite memory at Carver was the last day of camp last year when we had a barbecue. We had chips, burgers, and hot dogs. All the kids came outside so it was really fun. Everyone was talking to each other."

"It was bittersweet, because I was sad that I wasn’t going to see my friends for a year, but we were all excited to have adventures and tell each other about them when we come back next summer.”

The Carver Foundation is more than just a place for students to hang out after school. It provides children with educational help while giving parents peace of mind because they know their children are spending time in a productive and safe environment.

Whether students want to become a doctor like Thamisha or a swimmer like Jayla, Carver strives to make every dream achievable.

Carver Foundation logo

The Carver Foundation of Norwalk helps children reach their greatest potential by providing educational, social, and recreational programs. Carver is Norwalk’s largest provider of after-school programs for middle and high school students, and the largest provider of summer programs serving K through 9th grade students.

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