The Fresh Air Fund’s Career Awareness Program (CAP) is designed to extend the camping experience beyond a summer and into a year-round enrichment program. Students apply in the 6th grade and attend Camp Mariah, The Fund’s Career Awareness Camp, in Fishkill, NY, in the summer. The program continues during the school year in New York City and at camp with a focus on expanding educational options, academic support and career exploration.
CAP includes an intensive 24-day summer session along with school year weekend camping trips for 300 boys and girls at Camp Mariah, named in honor of Board member Mariah Carey for her generous support; annual Career Fair; job shadowings hosted by partners to offer “inside” views of professions; Tutoring Program with structured curriculum designed to support literacy skills development, strengthen critical thinking, and enhance computer skills; and College Connections Program which offers support through high school and preparation needed to apply for and attend college.
The Fund is addressing several areas of the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) curriculum at camp in fun-filled ways including:
- Learning math principles through measurements for recipes at the Nutrition Center and finding out what farm-to-table means
- Exploring ecology by testing water samples to find out what lies beneath the pond’s surface
- Studying the distances from earth to the moon at the planetarium
- Engaging in music and dance classes
In 2015, The Fund had a highly successful camping season at its five free sleepaway camps in Fishkill, NY.
3,000 boys and girls experienced the connection between recreational activities layered with academic enrichment. For two weeks or more, children went swimming and learned how to row boats out on the lake. They studied the planets and constellations to better appreciate the beauty of the night sky at camp. Campers picked vegetables in the garden and prepared healthy snacks at the newly renovated Nutrition Center. They explored their creativity while playing the guitar, dancing, and designing clothes in fashion class.
The five camps are located on The Fund’s Sharpe Reservation, with close to 2,000 acres of wilderness property.
- Camp Anita Bliss Coler (ABC) for girls, ages nine to 15
- Camp Hayden-Marks Memorial for boys, ages nine to 12
- Camp Tommy, for boys 12 to 15, named in honor of Tommy Hilfiger for his generous support
- Camp Hidden Valley for boys and girls with and without special needs, ages eight to 12
- Camp Mariah, houses the Career Awareness Program, for boys and girls in 7th – 9th grades in honor of Mariah Carey for her generous support
In 2015, 200 campers were served through the The Fund’s Precious Center for Teen Leadership at Camp ABC, which focuses on developing leadership skills. The Center was created with the generous support of The Gary Magness Family Foundation. Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness were inspired by producing the film Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire.
- Young women from 13 to 17 participate in The Fund’s Teen Leadership Program to focus on their future goals
- Teen girls are introduced to self-expression that helps them explore their futures, consider their educational and career planning, and think through challenges presented by gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status
- The year-round Young Women’s Giving Circle aims to teach girls about philanthropy, community service, leadership and self-expression. The teens meet on a regular basis for workshops and master classes by volunteer mentors, and learn the history, values and skills connected to fundraising and giving back to their communities
In 2015, nearly 4,000 New York City children visited volunteer host families in rural and suburban communities. Boys and girls, ages seven to 18, left behind the bustling city streets for the tranquility of the country.
During the one to two week summer experiences, children visit over 300 Friendly Towns along the East Coast and Southern Canada. Fresh Air children and volunteer hosts get to know what a cultural exchange of traditions, foods, and fun means on a personal, day-to-day basis.
Volunteer hosts say the simplest experiences have made the greatest impact on their young guests. The bond created is so strong that the majority of children are invited back to stay with the same host families, year after year. Children learn how to ride bikes or fly their first kites. Host parents echo the hopes and goals for their Fresh Air children as they express for their own children. It’s family-style mentoring.
Volunteers recruit new hosts, screen references, conduct home interviews, and lead marketing efforts through local committees.
Nearly 150 New York City volunteer tutors and mentors meet weekly with students in the Career Awareness Program (CAP). Others spend their evenings assembling registration materials or calling Fresh Air parents to confirm children's visits with host families or trips to camp. Corporate volunteer teams play an important role in helping to serve and enhance the lives of Fresh Air children. Volunteers host job shadowings where students experience the world of work. Volunteer groups also help at bus send offs, offering support as thousands of children embark on their Fresh Air adventures. At The Fund’s camps, volunteers participate in everything from mock trials to cleanup projects and help out as “Counselors for a Day.”