Ask Trista Dashner, a sophomore majoring in forensic psychology at DeSales, to describe her experience in the DeSales summer program for at-risk youth and she will say, "Priceless."
"These students are truly amazing. They are so intelligent and athletic, I almost forget how old they are" said Dashner of Bethlehem. "As I have gotten to know them better, I also have grown as a person. These boys have left footprints in my heart."
During the month of July, 14 boys, mostly 10 and 11 years of age, have been enjoying the DeSales summer program, which combines academics with typical camp activities. The boys are students at Nativity Preparatory School, a middle school for grades 5 through 8, in Wilmington, Delaware. A tuition-free school for children from low-income families, Nativity was founded by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales in September 2003, on the 100th anniversary of Salesianum School.
"The Nativity program is the ideal setting for a well balanced, athletic, cultural and, most importantly, educational upbringing. The students from DeSales are playing an instrumental role in bridging the gap between race, culture and the future aspirations of the young children," said Kevin Haggerty, director of the office of social outreach at DeSales.
The students' day, which begins at 7:00 a.m. and ends at 10:15 p.m., is filled with a variety of activities. The morning sports camps, from 9 a.m. to noon, feature baseball, basketball, tennis and soccer. The afternoon classes offer reading, grammar, math, typing and Latin. There are recreation periods before and after dinner. In the evening, there is reading and story hour.
Nativity student Joshua David Pegram, age 11, enjoys all the offerings. "It's like being in college. You study things like math, English and computers," said Pegram. "You take field trips, too, like to Dorney Park. It's nice to go somewhere different."
"The people are nice and I get to learn a lot," said Andre Sumiel, another 11-year old Nativity student, who enjoys science, reading and playing chess. "The dining hall is really neat. It looks like a food court at a mall."
While on campus, the Nativity students reside in DeChantal Hall. In addition to Dashner, their counselors include Pierre LaRocco, a DeSales senior majoring in sport management, and Cemantha Morris, a May 2004 DeSales graduate, who is awaiting assignment from the Peace Corps International.
Also, Joseph Andrews, a graduate of King's College, who will be a law student at Widener University this fall, and Erica Hayman, a graduate of Notre Dame, who will be pursuing a graduate degree in theology at Boston College beginning this fall.
At Nativity, students are encouraged to "be who they are and to be that well," in the spirit of St. Francis de Sales. To educate and help the child develop as a person, multiple needs are addressed. These include the academic, social, emotional, physical, artistic and spiritual.
"Nativity has provided students with a unique opportunity to overcome the obstacles of inner city life and be free to enjoy the learning process," said Brother Ed Ogden, principal at Nativity. "Hopefully the experience on the DeSales campus will inspire them to go to college."
According to Haggerty, the office of social outreach will continue to volunteer at Nativity School throughout the academic year and for week-long projects during the winter and spring breaks.
"The children from Nativity have gained our trust, our friendship and most of all, our hearts. This is a special bond that hopefully can exist for a very long time to come."
For more information on the Nativity School program, contact Kevin Haggerty, director of social outreach at DeSales University, at 610-282-1100, ext. 1889, or at Kevin.Haggerty@DeSales.edu.
Press Release: DeSales Summer Program Creates Special Bonds | Posted on: 7/28/2004
For more info:
Tom McNamara, Executive Director of Communications
DeSales University | 2255 Station Avenue | Center Valley, PA 18034
610.282.1100 x1219 | Tom.McNamara@desales.edu