Summer is in full swing and parents are looking to keep their children busy! Lincoln's Helping Open Pathways to Education (HOPE) Alameda program, which provides school-based early intervention and prevention mental health services to at-risk children, youth, and families in Alameda County, offers a 5-week therapeutic activities program each year to keep their students engaged during their summer break. For about 4-hours a day, the elementary school-aged children learn coping skills to navigate the school environment and to process problems at home. One parent says, "The program has been helpful to my child because it shows my son how to react and sit down and express his emotions...express himself. Just don't go ahead and get angry and irritated."
The HOPE Alameda vans pick up around 40 students at their homes each morning and take them to Fruitvale Elementary. Through group therapy sessions and other activities, students learn about social skills, coping mechanisms, communicating effectively, and expressing themselves. There are also group outings like swimming at an indoor pool, and at the end of the 5-weeks, an overnight camp in Manresa State Park. For most of the students, this is their first time camping, setting up tents, having a bonfire, and participating in camp activities. Being in a new setting also opens up new learning opportunities. "One of the students was afraid to sleep in his tent and started to cry," one staff person remembers. "It gave us (the staff) the opportunity to work with him on managing his fears and being away from his family."
Another staffer explains, "It's not just recreational. The purpose of summer camp is to have activities that the families wouldn't typically do and use those as opportunities to build skills in coping with issues such as depression and anxiety." In addition, the students get the chance to develop friendships outside of their school. At the end, students reflect and share with one another on what they learned and experienced at camp.