By Chevont’e Alexander
Blue Sky Fund serves just over 1000 youth in a year. Each child will participate in various programs in the organization. Blue Sky Fund’s programs work in partnership with Richmond Public Schools to help them prepare for their standardized tests. More than 500 children will participate through the Explorers program, which conducts eight science-based outdoor field trips each year for third graders in seven Richmond Public Elementary Schools. Five additional programs provide additional outdoor experiences that range from a few hours to multi-day expeditions. Through these outdoor experiences, students increase their understanding of science through active learning, expand their horizons by visiting new and occasionally challenging environments, and improve their leadership skills by working together.
“Nature holds promise, the outdoors provide challenge and adventure, and education is the key to harnessing that power for the benefit of young people,” says Wijesooriya.
Blue Sky’s goal is to increase the number of children for whom we have a meaningful impact within the scope of our stated strategy. Our 2015 goal is to serve 2100 children in the Explorers program (science field trips for grades three through seven), 200 youth in the Expeditions program, 200 children in sponsored camperships, and 80 youth in an intense multi-day expedition and service project. In addition, our goal includes 150 children exposed to our day-long Church Hill Games and 200 children involved in day camps. The total, including overlap of children between programs, is just over 2900 children.
Program success, however, is more than achieving the numbers. Blue Sky’s two core program goals are to:
• Help children achieve academic success, especially in the sciences, through active outdoor education that is appropriate for their current science curriculum.
• Develop character and leadership through outdoor experiences that expand horizons, increase confidence, and build collaboration skills.
Explorers enjoy the opportunity to learn about nature from being in nature. In 2008, this program began in partnership with Oak Grove/Bellemeade and Chimborazo Elementary Schools. For two years committed volunteers, Blue Sky Fund, teachers, and 3rd grade students met one Saturday a month, traveling outside the students’ urban environments to discover more about themselves and their environment. The schools had identified a need to address low performance on the science SOL tests and Blue Sky joined in to meet the need with creative, hands-on, experiential field trip learning. In 2010, with prompting by Oak Grove, we chose to offer this program as a 3rd grade school day trip, still once a month, and still free to the schools and their students. Beyond any of our expectations, this program was so well embraced by many of the city schools that we now serve 500 students in 8 schools every month.
Outdoor Leadership Institute (OLI)
Blue Sky’s Outdoor Leadership Institute (formerly Outward Bound Together) recruits two crews of ten 9th, 10th and 11th grade youth from a very diverse cross section of Richmond to come together in a 3-week, intensive leadership training opportunity each summer. Separate girls and boys crews will each prepare for and complete a 5 day backpacking trip, as well as meet each month, September thru May, to build a strong sense of teamwork and complete meaningful community service projects. OLI’s purpose is to build teamwork and collaboration skills and increase confidence, leadership potential and community involvement. Blue Sky is currently accepting applications for the 2012-2013 Institute, so if you know any current 8th, 9th, or 10th graders, please encourage them to apply to this truly transformational program. Visit www.bluesky.fund.org for program information and applications.
Church Hill Games- May 12th, 2012
This annual one-day event is one of our most popular. CHG is a sports clinic day at Bill Robinson Park in Church Hill that provides fun, sports instruction, lunch, and a Christian inspirational message to over 130 participants with the help of 120 volunteers who share God’s love with these neighborhood children. We would love for you to come and volunteer, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Every summer Blue Sky sends low income kids to various summer camps. Inspired by the legacy of Fresh Air Fund, Blue Sky Fund was founded on the belief in the transforming power of the summer camp experience. Our campers (ages 8-18) are unable to afford camp otherwise, and we believe that every child should have access to summer camp. Blue Sky Fund facilitates the paperwork, funding, and transportation for all camps. Our camp offerings include Summers Best 2 Weeks (SB2W) Citikidz, Watermarks Camp, Riverside Outfitters Outdoor Kamp, and Virginia Outside.
Adventuring is a year-round after school program that uses the hard skills of adventure activities to teach personal and leadership development to low-income youth throughout Richmond. Designed in 6 to 8 week sessions, this program teaches participants basic outdoor skills, such as how to put up a tent, rock climbing technique, or how to start a fire. Each session has a theme such as hiking, biking, rock climbing or exercise/nutrition and is tailored appropriately. Most sessions culminate in an expedition that challenges the youth to use their newfound skills out in the great outdoors. Currently we run this program with CHAT (Church Hill Activities and Tutoring) and Church Hill Academy.
The goal is for every child who experiences a Blue Sky program to have a better understanding of, and appreciation for, the natural world. For those children and youth who experience Blue Sky year after year, the goal is to see character development that includes a sense of respect, learning engagement, responsibility, the ability to work with others, and the courage to try new things.