Thursday was a special evening for the Ward Summer Camp as its participants put on their annual concert in front of a packed house at Christ’s Church in Rye.
The Ward Summer Camp was founded 17 years ago by the Rev. Gerald Washington and his wife Cheryl. The camp is a four-week reading, writing and literacy program that teaches in different academic and creative areas using techniques that help the children embrace learning.
“The program is designed to take the dullness off the blade during the summer,” said Rev. Washington. “We don’t expect to change the world but we can make a difference in keeping the kids sharp in those four weeks. Teachers in the schools tell us that the kids don’t back slide, we reinforce what was taught in the public schools.”
Professional jazz singer Anne Phillips spends time with the children at the camp throughout the summer teaching them classic jazz songs that they perform for the elderly at The Osborne Home and their families.
“We also do other creative stuff to keep them moving and keep their minds working,” said Washington. “The singing tonight was the result of four weeks of teaching them the old classic songs. They learn the lyrics and sing the songs, learning the lyrics and singing works to support reading and literacy in a more creative way.”
Ingrid Gomez works on a theme with Phillips for a concert each summer based on a song taught to the children by Phillips.
“The kids didn’t know what a nickelodeon was, which is a juke box,” said Gomez. “We explained the history of a juke box, how they came along and we based the whole show, decorations and all on that. If the song is based in the 1940’s we make hairpieces and things relative to the time. They learn how to make it and wear it during the performance to show it off to their families. As a parent, with all the hip hop that’s out there, it’s nice to see them learn a different form of music and jazz is great.”
“The camp is excellent, it keeps the children focused and they are enjoying learning,” said Port Chester schools Superintendent Edward Kliszus. “The idea is to have a positive experience in learning and reading. It really doesn’t get any better. I was here at their concert last year, it was fabulous. I’m back and excited.”