Annapolis: STEM storms Woodside Apartments
Over 50 children and family members took advantage of a community outreach effort on Friday, July 16 at Woodside Gardens Apartments in Annapolis to pick baskets full of summer fun, including plenty of science, technology, electronics and math material. The effort was spearheaded by Ron-Shaye Clark, the coordinator of the Annapolis Parks and Recreation Department’s REACH program. REACH (Recreation Education Achievement Community Health) is an after school program designed to engage children in grades six through twelve with academic support, mentoring, self-development, art, sports and recreation activities. REACH is normally offered at the “Pip” Moyer Recreation Center, Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 pm Due to the pandemic center access is limited. Program staff knew it had to think outside the box to serve kids this summer. The result was the Summer Fun Box initiative, an idea borrowed from a program that was being done in Montgomery County. The summer fun boxes are actually baskets of games, books, snacks, toys and other items that each child received from community donations. Clark said the baskets were themed in three categories—arts and crafts, space, and manipulatives (mind-enriching projects). The baskets came soley from community donations. Staff then sanitized the items with a CDC-approved chemical to prevent any coronavirus transmission. “We got a lot of STEM projects,” she said. “I think because they're out of school. You know, we want them to continue to stimulate their brains to do what it is that they need to do--make them better.” The department’s recreation division chief, Katy Owings, was also on hand for the event. “So these are for the kids that either for whatever reason, weren't able to go to camp, couldn't afford camp,” she said. “We wanted to reach out to those families that didn't have the resources and provide their children something fun to do at home...to reach out to our underserved communities to help them have a great summer.” Owings gave most of the credit for making the initiative happen to Clark. It was a team effort though. Clark called the outpouring of generosity from the community “awesome” and “phenomenal”. Along with the generosity of residents was the work of the department’s staff and interns who helped load and transport the baskets from the “Pip” Moyer center to the apartment complex. The drive from the recreation center to the apartments was fairly short. The baskets were loaded into the back of a pickup. Once there, outside the apartment buildings staff set up a table as curious children waited with their families patiently in the heat. Music accompanied the happy atmosphere as the Woodside residents lined up to get their baskets. Sherika Jones was there with children from her extended family and the neighborhood. “I feel really great,” she said. “It’s for them—enjoying summer life.” Donnie Jones, 34, came with his niece, Renay Green. “I like how they give back and make sure the kids are smiling and happy.” he said. Clark said she has been working for REACH about a year now. Owings gave her the freedom to lead a new summer outreach and Clark ran with it, “I love it,” Clark said. “This is my passion. It didn’t take long for me to really put (an) outline together. It just takes a person to listen to get what it is that they (children) want and what it is they need.” For more information on REACH programs reach out to Clark at RDClark@Annapolis.gov or call 302-982-5221.