The summer of 2021 is packed with a range of opportunities for children of all ages, free of charge, through Millhill Child & Family Development. The organization, which transforms lives, families and communities through educational services, is offering three distinct summer programs to keep Trenton youth active and enriched through the summer months.
“We’ve really thought about how we build a continuum of services so that we hit all the age groups,” said Cynthia Oberkofler, Executive Director of Millhill Child & Family Development. “Youth need that support through the stages of their lives, and we want to be there to satisfy that.”
Starting with the young ones, Millhill has developed Camp RISE, which is available to children between five and eleven years old (those in Pre-k – 4th grade in the Fall 2021 school year). This free virtual summer camp focuses on improving and enhancing the literacy of new learners.
The young students who sign up for this program will receive an complimentary electronic device from Millhill to ensure all children have equal access to participate virtually. Additionally, Millhill will be providing Camp RISE learners with packed meals that will be distributed throughout the summer during the program. According to Oberkofler, these accommodations are all thanks to Millhill’s dedicated team of staff.
“I have to commend our staff; [they’ve] really, really been exceptional during these times. They really use technology in ways that we hadn’t before, and then recognizing some of the barriers that the people we serve encounter – the technology barrier, the fact that people are losing their jobs, and maybe, just having food on the tables is challenging,” said Oberkofler. “That’s the reason that we’re able to do this. Everybody’s kind of rolled up their sleeves and gotten creative.”
In another push to extend the services to a wider audience, Millhill has developed a new program specifically designed for an age group that is often neglected. After evaluating the extensive amount of year long programs offered by Millhill, the organization decided 2021 was the year to create something additional.
“We found that children and youth of a certain age really get excited about technology, and understand it and interact with it even better than we can imagine,” said Oberkofler. “So, that really showed us that we could we do it and hit this age group that really is an underserved age group, which is middle schoolers.”
This year at Millhill, local middle schoolers can sign up for the new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Explorers camp. This technology focused camp, in partnership with Rutgers Extension, is a free virtual summer program that will allow Trenton pre-teens to engage in experiments, attend field trips, speak with science mentors and more.
“We have a history of strong youth programs for teenagers and programs for children but we had this gap, where preteens didn’t have access to any programming designed for their age level,” said Ariel Dell’Arena, Development and Communications Coordinator for Millhill Child & Family Development. “STEM Explorers is a way to reach middle schoolers so that we can really help anyone at every age.”
According to Millhill’s youth department, STEM Explorers was started to help middle school students stay with science at a critical time in their education when youth often fall away from science if not supported.
Similar to Camp RISE, the middle school STEM Explorers will receive an electronic device to allow for students to interact on a remote platform when need. Additionally, the youth participants will receive a monetary stipend which will allow each individual to earn up to $300.
“[Millhill] is providing stipends to the youth so that they have some money for basic needs,” said Oberkofler. “Providing a stipend for the youth is really important, given the youth we serve.”
For the older youth, those between 15 and 21 years old, Millhill is offering an immersive Youth Workforce & Career Training Program. This program is a virtual alternative to the previously active Summer Youth Employment Program, a public-private partnership between the Trenton Mayor’s Office, Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce and Millhill Child & Family Development.
The Youth Workforce & Career Training Program allows for teens to learn and practice workforce and life skills by taking advantage of online workshops and the innovative LRNG learning platform, which provides learners with personalized educational tools and lectures for developing career-focused skills.
Dell’Arena explained, “It’s organized into three main groups – you have guest speakers that you can choose to visit each week within your interests, and then there’s workshops; and those both take place over Zoom. Those are with other career experts and you have to attend a certain amount. Then there’s the online workshops with the LRNG platform. Those are geared towards your career interests.”
She continued, “So they’re engaging in a lot of different ways to really learn the skill and then have a chance to practice it and hone in on it.”
Youth participants in the Workforce & Career Training Program will also earn a stipend. Each student may earn up to $700 throughout the program.
Although the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has challenged Millhill’s ability to provide these educational programs and resources to local students, the organization hopes their creative virtual and hybrid models this summer produce long-lasting impact for Millhill.
“We learned a lot from the pandemic. I think there’s a realization that maybe some of these models that we’re developing might end up staying hybrid,” said Oberkofler. “I think that not just doing things one certain way and not thinking about all the ramifications of that really opened up our thinking.”
All three summer programs offered by Millhill Child & Family Development begin July 6 and run until August 13.
To register for Camp RISE, click HERE.
To register for Middle School STEM Explorers, click HERE.
To register for Youth Workforce & Career Training Program, click HERE.
For more information about Millhill Child & Family Development and their summer programs, visit: https://www.millhillcenter.org/youth-summer-programs/