November 30, 2022
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Back to class: Harpur Fellows project helps kids transition to in-person learning

Claire Choi, a Harpur Fellow, initiated an in-person summer school program for children in kindergarten through fourth grade in Palisades Park, NJ. Claire Choi, a Harpur Fellow, initiated an in-person summer school program for children in kindergarten through fourth grade in Palisades Park, NJ.
Claire Choi, a Harpur Fellow, initiated an in-person summer school program for children in kindergarten through fourth grade in Palisades Park, NJ. Image Credit: Provided photo.

For elementary school students, the coronavirus pandemic upended the very nature of school, erasing the boundaries between the classroom and home. The transition back into the physical classroom after a year of learning online was equally daunting.

Enter Binghamton University senior Claire Choi, a Harpur Fellow who initiated an in-person summer school program for children in kindergarten through fourth grade in Palisades Park, N.J. She received $4,000 in funding from the fellowship for the five-week program, called a Time of Healing.

“The program was made for kids coming from low-income and/or single-parent households. In providing this free program for them, we hoped to create a space for them to interact with others, have fun and stay active during the summertime,” explained Choi, a double major in sociology and Korean studies.

To see this project to fruition, she partnered with the nonprofit Neighbor Plus, which provides an array of services to six different regions of New York and New Jersey, ranging from social work care for seniors to delivering meals to the homeless. Initially, she offered to teach poetry and art expression to children associated with the program, but the project soon expanded into a full summer school.

Periods covered math, language arts, arts and crafts, and recess, aided by local high school students who volunteered their time. While Choi doesn’t aspire to work in a school setting professionally, the experience gave her valuable insights into the work that goes into the creation of community programs. She also honed her communication and teamwork skills.

They only had a month to prepare, and Choi initially had her doubts — which quickly evaporated.

“The positive response from kids, program coordinators, and parents all assured me that this program did what it was set out to do. We served about 25 kids and ended the whole program with a birthday celebration and the last prize day, which was super fun,” said Choi, who is currently studying abroad at Korea University, taking a mix of international studies, cinema and sociology courses.

Posted in: In the World, Harpur