In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the summer started off with a degree of uncertainty. Usually, the BJP Summer Leadership Academy buses our students to Fairfield University for a month-long sleep away camp. Nevertheless, BJP’s administrative team made the decision to hold camp at our school in East Flatbush. Not only was it important to give our families ample time to plan their summer, but also camp allowed us to explore the various educational, cultural, and recreational opportunities New York City has to offer.
What resulted was an amazing team effort on the part of BJP’s administration and faculty that brought the excitement of Fairfield to Brooklyn. This year, camp’s theme was “un fuego enciendo otros fuegos,” “a fire that lights other fires,” a call for our students to recognize their vocation of being examples to others: at camp, in their communities, and in their lives. Students were placed into different intra-grade groups: Idols of Inspiration, Ladies That Lead The Way, Inspirational Sparks, Rising Phoenix, Luces Brillantes and Los Fuegos, each of which was led by one of our dedicated alumni counselors: Spirit, Zemirah, Ian, Che, Latanya, and Sapphire.
The camp schedule helped BJP students stoke their own inner fires in a variety of ways, reflecting the Jesuit principle of “cura personalis:” the care of the entire person of each student. Days started with announcements and Book Club, with each grade reading different beloved books: Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (5th grade), Holes by Louis Sachar (6th grade), Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (7th grade), and Dear Martin by Nic Stone (8th grade). Camp provided students the opportunity to actually discuss these books with their peers and develop that love of reading for reading’s sake. From there, students attended math and ELA classes before transitioning to a daily advisory period. Advisory develops students’ socio-emotional development through conversations, check-ins, and activities about different topics related to being a middle schooler. After lunch, students played outside at local parks and also took an outdoor leadership course, which helped them develop their leadership skills and self-confidence.
Some of our first-time campers had jitters at first. Many new campers, like fifth grader Ariel, were apprehensive that camp would be just like school. However, she settled in well, and like many first-timers, she leaves camp more excited about the upcoming school year. “I had one friend when I got here and now I have so many so I really like camp.” As often happens, camp is a great way not only for students to meet their classmates outside of a normal school setting, but also for them to befriend students in different grades they might not normally see every day at school. Older students mentor younger students, and younger students grow to see the older kids as peers. Camp is an essential way BJP builds a cohesive, loving community across grade levels.
One of the highlights of the summer was our field trip to the New York Aquarium! The interactive activities allowed the campers to express themselves, including placing their hands and heads in shark mouths. It made for many laughs and funny pictures. We also got to see and learn about a variety of fascinating sea creatures and hear about the Wildlife Conservation Society’s ongoing efforts to protect natural habitats.
The final week of camp was all about Bees and Bowls! We had a Spelling Bee, Math Bowl and Geography Bee. Jinelly (8th grader) prevailed in our Spelling Bee. The Math Bowl was a nail biter that came down to Safaira (8th grader) and Neena (7th grader), a rematch from 2019. Safaira won quickly by correctly multiplying 45 by 69 to get 3,105. Ethan (8th grader) dominated the Geography Bee, even surprising himself with some of his correct answers! Nevertheless, the best part was seeing other students cheer so loudly for their classmates.
Graduation was a final hurrah for all, complete with the video below to sum up a wonderful summer. Each group made a banner they hung proudly. Teachers and counselors distributed awards to campers based on academic performance, growth, and character. Jinelly and Nash (both 8th graders) won the Camper of the Year award. While it was bittersweet not to return to Fairfield this summer, we had a wonderful time in our Brooklyn camp. We can’t wait to see everyone for the upcoming school year!
See our camp slideshow video here: https://youtu.be/wKSXYTiKrmI