Summer Camps Make a Difference at Fairfield University
A pair of annual Fairfield University summer camps, one for pre-college Cristo Rey high school students from around the country and another for middle school students from Brooklyn Jesuit Prep in Crown Heights, has been shaping the lives of hundreds of teenage and pre-teen youngsters. One of those students, Chris Ferreira, recalls that Fairfield University was the first place he ever travelled to outside the borders of his New York City home. Chris attended Summer Leadership Camp here from 2006-08 while he was a student at Brooklyn Jesuit Prep. “When I came to camp as a student, it was the first time I left the urban environment of New York City and was able to see the serenity of nature,” said Chris, who has since graduated from BJP and is back at Fairfield this summer as a camp counselor.
“Camp at Fairfield helped me develop into an independent young man, because this was where I learned how to swim, do my own laundry, and much more,” he said. “I came back to camp as a counselor because I wanted to give back to the program that gave so much to me. I wanted to embrace the idea of being committed to justice by being a mentor and counselor to these kids who are much like I was at their age. It is a great opportunity, and I know that camp at Fairfield University is something that they will cherish for the rest of their lives.”
Chris Ferreira, now a rising sophomore at Binghamton College and a recipient of the Gates Millennium Scholarship, is helping to mentor 83 middle school students from Brooklyn Jesuit Prep this summer – students like Justin Jones, a rising seventh grader. “Camp is a great experience and teaches me a lot of things that I can take home,” said Justin. Another camper, Beyonce King, a rising eighth grader, said “BJP camp teaches me to be a responsible leader and how to lead by example. It's very fun, but very challenging.” The annual Summer Leadership Camp, now in its ninth year at Fairfield, has middle-school students taking part in daily exercises that feature academic studies in the morning, outdoor activities including hikes and athletics in the afternoon, and religious discussions in the evening. “Spending the summer at Fairfield University was truly a unique experience for me and my peers alike,” added Chris.
Another summer camp at Fairfield, this one for pre-college high school teenagers, is the Cristo Rey College Exploration Summer Program and Pre-College Workshops. The camp is designed to increase college access and awareness and provide students with skills and tools necessary for selecting the appropriate college in their future. High school students from 13 states in the Cristo Rey program, including California, Arizona, Alabama and Texas, plus students from other schools throughout New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut took part in the program which is presented annually at Fairfield University. “Not only have I learned valuable information about the college process, but here at Fairfield’s Cristo Rey program I am also learning a lot about myself,” said Jesus Yanez, a rising senior at Arrupe Jesuit Cristo Rey High School, in Denver, CO. “With the academic classes that we took here, I was able to see that I am more interested in a career in the science field than a career as an engineer. Surrounded by this beautiful campus and being around such helpful staff I can really see myself becoming more independent in choosing the best option for my future."
During the week-long program, Fairfield University professors from various disciplines provide the students with exposure to academics and what the students should expect in a classroom environment once they enter college. They were also introduced to a number of Jesuit principles and were asked to reflect daily on what they experienced and learned. “This trip has helped me branch out to new academic and social facets, while helping me to stay closely connected to God and my family," said Joelle Mcleod, a rising senior at Christ The King Preparatory Cristo Rey School, in Newark, NJ.
Cristo Rey schools, located in 17 states and the District of Columbia, provide a Catholic, college preparatory education to 7,400 young people who live in urban communities with limited educational options. Brooklyn Jesuit Prep is a Jesuit middle school serving low-income families of diverse ethnicities and faiths in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. The school was founded in the fall of 2003 by the Society of Jesus under former president Rev. Vincent DeCola, S.J. The school was modeled after Nativity Mission Center, a middle school that served low-income families on Manhattan’s Lower East Side for more than 40 years. This model has been replicated more than 60 times throughout the country and the world.
Summer Camp participants pictured (left to right): Front row: Chris Ferreira, Justin Jones, Beyonce King; Back row: Joelle Mcleod, Jesus Yanez.