Summer Enrichment Program another United Way partner

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Editor’s note: This is another in a series of articles featuring the partner agencies of Putnam County United Way

For more than 30 years, the Summer Enrichment Program’s mission has been changing the lives of elementary school children in Putnam County with identified risk factors with positive developmental, educational, recreational and social interventions to meet the needs.

Healthy eating, exercise and social skills are essential for children’s emotional development. Most children in the program are food insecure, and the program participates in the Child Nutrition Program to provide a nutritionally complete breakfast and lunch and provide a bag of food each Friday for the weekend.

SEP promotes developing lifelong habits of physical activity with swim lessons and free swimming at the Greencastle Aquatic Center and daily games and outdoor activities. Many of the children served live in stressful home situations. SEP provides a structured environment where everyone is expected to follow rules and treat others with respect.

Professionals and young adults serve as role models. An education director, assistant education director-bus driver, and teams of counselors (college students and recent high school graduates) and mentors (high school students) work closely with groups of a dozen children. The bonds forged during the program are so strong that many counselors, mentors and children return year after year.

An executive director coordinates program administration, and a governing board consisting of members from Gobin and St. Andrew’s churches and the community oversees the program. SEP also impacts local college and high school staff members by exposing them to the socioeconomic conditions in our county and by providing a way to give back to their community.

The theme for 2016 was “Camp SEP” and some 60 children were kept very busy. They were divided into younger and older groups for age-appropriate activities.

In addition to breakfast and lunch at Ridpath School, swim lessons, games and craft activities, the children had daily social skill lessons: Being good listeners, how to be a friend, trying new activities, cooperation, anger management, calming strategies, and building self-esteem, empathy, and self-control. Students applied these lessons with skits, role-playing, using “I messages” to convey their feelings, a puppet show, “Are You a Bully?” and a behavior chart to track individual progress.

Many community volunteers provided enrichment activities including theater and percussion lessons; making catapults, origami journals, and illustrated storybooks; new dances and songs; lessons on nutrition, exercise, and food science; and conducting science experiments. Greencastle Police Chief Tom Sutherlin came to talk about bicycle safety. The children visited the DAR cabin at Robe-Ann Park and learned songs about Indiana’s history, saw an art show at the Peeler Art Building, weeded the flower beds at Gobin as a community service project, went bowling (many for the first time) and made tie-dyed T-shirts.

Several children thanked Julie Stevens, education director, “for making their summer fun with cool field trips and fun activities.” That is what SEP is all about. As we strive to make Putnam County a better place for everyone, SEP seeks to reach the neediest children in our community so that they may have a brighter future for generations to come.

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