Camp iRock bridges the gap

Hampton Roper, The Sentinel-Progress, - June 28, 2022

PICKENS COUNTY — While COVID-19 cases are falling, the lasting damage the pandemic has caused can still be felt by young students. Camp iRock is looking to remedy this problem – and let the kids have fun while doing it.

Camp iRock is an innovative summer camp for first through third graders that focuses on improving reading proficiency for children who have fallen behind grade level. It is a collaborative effort between the United Way of Pickens County, the YMCA and the School District of Pickens County. Each class is instructed by a teacher, a YMCA coordinator and a teacher from the Call Me MISTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) program from Clemson University.

“It’s so important to get them early, especially coming off of covid and a year of virtual, just trying to pick those kids up and give them the opportunity this summer to try and close those gaps,” said Caroline Ellison, a counselor with the program.

According to United Way’s website, only 40% of third graders were on track for reading proficiency this fall. This data is backed up by a 2021 Stanford study which found reading fluency among second and third graders is roughly 30% behind what would be expected in a typical year.

“Especially now after COVID, I think everybody I’ve talked to (has a) child or grandchild at Camp iRock,” said United Way of Pickens County President Julie Capaldi. “They’ve all had a struggle – they’ve all struggled and they’re all behind at one level or another and this gives them a chance to really build.”

Once the learning is done, kids get to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities thanks in part to United Way’s partnership with the YMCA. Recently, students enjoyed a field day and a field trip to go swimming. However, at Camp iRock, the fun does not end inside the classroom.

“I liked how we do dance breaks,” said one third grader when asked about his favorite part of camp.

“Because it’s summer and sometimes being engaged with reading for 30 minutes or so can kind of exhaust your brain, we do dance breaks” responded his teacher.

Reach Hampton Roper at 864-855-0355.


Originally published in The Sentinel-Progress on June 28, 2022