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Kids at Syracuse City Parks this Summer Building Confidence, Academic & Other Skills in YMCA Program

Bridget McAllister/WAER News

Dozens of kids playing in Syracuse parks this summer are learning more than just fun and games.  The YMCA Power Scholars program, an educational camp, is wrapping up its lessons with over 60 third- and fourth-graders. The children themselves find that the camp is about more than even just reading and math.

“In the morning it’s just like regular school, but in the afternoon you get to do fun stuff, said Siany .”

Maya says other parents should send kids to Power Scholars camp, “We’re learning about perseverance, like never giving up.”

Isabelle added, “Even though you are away from your family for awhile, I think you’ll have fun meeting new friends.”

The 5-week camp comes to a close this Friday. A typical day begins with a provided breakfast, followed by group reading, math games, science experiments, art projects, and team-building exercises.  The YMCA of Greater Syracuse Director of Education Alicia Roberson says that in addition to better grades, kids leave the camp with greater trust in each other and themselves. The kids proclaim their own intelligence, value, and ability every day with their Power Scholars Pledge. Roberson finds that the pledge helps drive home their camp motto: “Be Extraordinary”.

“So one girl in particular, she had her head down, would never volunteer.  But the end of the 5 weeks last year, she not only volunteered, but she was so confident, she actually red at the annual meeting, in a whole room of adults.  She was just one of many who had the same kind of progress.”

Roberson says the camp serves an important role in closing the Achievement Gap,  educational and social barriers that make it tough for many inner-city children to succeed. CEO Hal Welsh says he was inspired to start the camp when he learned how crucial early childhood learning is for determining success in adulthood.

“I went to a Y conference.  At the conference they indicated that the state of Texas predicts how many prison cells they’ll need with the reading scores of third-graders.  When I heard that, I said we’ve got to do something about that.”

This is the second year of the Power Scholars Academy, which met this year at Schiller, Wilson, and Burnett Parks. To learn more about Power Scholars, visit

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.