International School’s Summer Camp Possible Through ‘Unique Coalition’

Vicky Wolak Friar News

SILVER SPRING, Md. — During the summer of 2010, Toby Harkleroad, principal of St. Francis International School, wondered why two summer camps for similar age groups were running simultaneously, less than two miles apart operated by different ministries of the same. He was referring to the camp run by SFIS for students from preschool to eighth grade, in partnership with Camp Fire USA, on its Hyattsville campus, and a comparable program run by St. Camillus Church in Langley Park, where Michael Johnson, OFM, is pastor. 

St. Francis International School, which opened in September 2010, serves as the parochial school for St. Camillus, St. Mark the Evangelist Church in Hyattsville, and Our Lady of Vietnam Church in Silver Spring. Gerald Hopeck, OFM, was recently appointed as the new assistant principal of the school.

For the summer of 2011, Harkleroad said he was determined to bring the two camps together “to provide children from both communities with a high quality summer camp experience using the Camp Fire USA model.”

To reduce the cost of running a larger camp, teen volunteers were recruited, a scholarship fund was created, and generous donations were received from various local parishes and organizations.

Collaborative Effort, Varied Activities
Summer @ St. Francis — the camp program launched this summer — ran in three sessions of two weeks from June 27 to Aug. 5 at SFIS’s campus, across the parking lot from St. Camillus Church, in Silver Spring.

The program provided traditional camp activities such as arts and crafts, sports, drama, and games — with academic subjects such as reading, math, and science built in — for 40 campers. According to its website, the camp’s goal is “for kids to learn almost without knowing that it’s happening.” Campers were also treated to field trips.

For families in need of extra care for their children, the camp provided before- and after-care hours. High school students could also participate in a leadership training and service learning program in conjunction with the younger campers. Most of the children at the camp “were at or below the poverty level but they don’t know that,” said Rosemary Pezzuto, the camp’s director, in an article in the Aug. 4 issue of The Catholic Standard. 

Funding for the camp came from a variety of sources including Camp Fire USA, United Way and St. Camillus Parish. St. Elizabeth Parish in Rockville, Md., the Commonweal Foundation and a local apartment complex all provided other in-kind support. St. Francis International School assumed the cost of using the building and the school’s supplies and equipment with no cost to the camp.

A Valuable Summer
The camp “made an amazing impact on the campers … who have learned and grown this summer in a fully accredited summer camp program,” according to a news release distributed by Harkleroad, who said, “In many ways what we did at St. Francis International School this summer was only possible because of groups like the ones featured in the Aug. 10 issue of HNP Today.” Teens from high schools and parishes as far away as Sacramento, Calif., and Boston used Summer @ St. Francis as the site for their summer service trips. 

“Throughout the school year, our students at SFIS do fundraising and service for others,” Harkleroad noted. “Our camp would not have been possible if other schools and parishes, like so many associated with Holy Name Province, did not send their young people out each summer to be in ministry. It was really powerful to be on the receiving end this time.”

Summer @ St. Francis was featured in a Spanish article in El Pregonero that includes photos.

— Vicky Wolak interned in the Province’s Communications Office this summer. Jocelyn Thomas contributed to this article.

Editor’s note: Information about SFIS can be found on its Facebook page and YouTube channel. Information about Camp Fire USA can be found on its Facebook page.