Summer at South

Posted: May 23, 2019

Time on campus doesn’t end for some students

It’s a hot summer day. The sun is shining down on the kindergarteners’ beaming smiles. All eyes are fixed on the monkeys – on those in the enclosure and on those peering in.

Current senior Roddy MacDonald is trying to wrangle up his group of kids. One is over here – now three are over there. He’s far too outnumbered to keep up with their energy.

For most high school students, they consider their connection with school cut off as soon as the dismissal bell rings on the last day. Others are only getting started with what’s ahead.

Many upper school students take part in Minnehaha’s extended day and summer programs throughout the year. From helping kids with homework to putting a Band-Aid on a scraped knee, they are there for it all.

Senior Kaylee Harnack started her work with Minnehaha’s child care programs in the summer of 2018. She was hired as an auxiliary person by Holly Abramson, the director of extended day and summer programs. Harnack primarily worked with fifth through eighth graders, which “was so much fun”, she added.

Being the oldest of four kids, Harnack has had a lot of hands-on action with children. She has always loved kids. Her aspirations began with Cultural Field Experience (CFE) sophomore year when she volunteered at an elementary school.

“Just from then, that’s what I realized that that’s what I want to do,” said Harnack. “I want to help mentor kids, get one on one time with them. To help them become the next president.”

Spending even more time with kids through the school programs only amplified her aspirations to major in elementary education in college. She eventually wants to become a second grade teacher.

Harnack shares similar ambitions with other staff members. Many go on to work full-time with kids after their time with the programs. Some still work with the programs while in college or while in the professional field.

According to Abramson, having experience with kids can really give students a leg-up when applying and working for the programs. Students’ main jobs are to assist the lead of camps or classrooms.

They can be assigned to differing camps such as Camp Minnehaha, Woodworking, Reading and Riding, Soccer and countless more. They help to engage and encourage the kids, as well as have fun with them.

Having upper school students work with lower school students affects both parties positively.

“Our campers adore the upper school students,” says Abramson. “They think they are so cool! Our campers absolutely love senior, Roddy MacDonald. When he comes to work the kids’ faces light up. They are so excited to see him. Roddy has worked at our program for three years and has really gained a lot of connection with the kids. He has helped them learn to tie their shoe and helped them learn sports. It is so fun to watch.”

Students grow tremendously as they work with the programs. They learn life-impacting lessons and bond with those they wouldn’t necessarily form relationships with.

Seniors Bennett Theisen and MacDonald both work with the summer programs.

They also brought the baseball team to the State Championship in 2017. The kids hopped on a bus and took a field trip to cheer on their mentors and friends at the game.

“All the kids showed how much they actually cared for me and uplifted my spirits as a result of that,” said Theisen. “They screamed my name, screamed Redhawks, and just made noise for me and I couldn’t be happier they came to watch me.”

Doubtlessly, students bond with the kids more and more every day. As their connections grow stronger, so do their virtues.

“Working with children takes patience, creativity and responsibility,” said Abramson. “It is fun to see how each of those characteristics come out in students, as they all approach it differently.”

Children can be very challenging to work with, as they are young and full of emotion they don’t yet know how to control.

Working with a care program like Minnehaha’s extended day and summer programs can build compassion and character, but it can also inspire a lifetime of passion.

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