March 7, 2018

Kids and Camps Guide Inspires Summer Memories of Princeton-Blairstown Center

To the Editor:

The unseasonably warm weather last week coupled with your 2018 Kids and Camps guide had me longing for the warm weather, outside exploration, and joys that come with summer. As a Princeton University undergraduate, I had the good fortune to become familiar with the Princeton-Blairstown Center (PBC) and to spend a summer working there. The kids who came to PBC then were kids who were from areas with fewer resources than where I grew up and whose opportunities were not always the same. I went there to work with and teach them, but I learned a lot in the process and became acutely aware of the lack of quality summer opportunities for these young people.

Fast forward a few decades, and I now serve on the Board of PBC, and I know first-hand that PBC is still making sure that students from under-served communities have opportunities for an enriching and positive summer experience. At the Princeton-Blairstown Center, we are working with young people to combat summer learning loss, the phenomenon where young people lose academic skills over the summer months. Each summer, 500 students — primarily from Trenton and Newark — come to our 264-acre campus in Blairstown, New Jersey for our week-long Summer Bridge Program, free of charge. They spend three hours a day engaged in hands-on literacy; science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); and project-based learning; an hour and a half in waterfront activities (swimming/canoeing/kayaking); and three hours a day working on their social-emotional skills through ropes and challenge course activities that focus on leadership, team-building, communication, and problem-solving skills.

Each student also gets to choose a book to take home with them, donated by many of PBC’s community partners including the Hun School, Princeton Friends School, Representative Andrew Zwicker’s office, and the Hamilton Township Library, to name a few. Research indicates that the best predictor of summer loss or gain is if a child reads during the summer.

All young people deserve opportunities for enriching and stimulating summer experiences so that they start the school year ready to learn and compete on an even playing field. For 110 years, the Princeton-Blairstown Center has been providing this opportunity to some of the most deserving young people in our community.

Chris Van Buren

Hun Road, Board Vice Chair 

Princeton-Blairstown Center