Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County Addresses Rising Mental Health Issues and Learning Gaps at Summer Camps

By: Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County
Kids relax in the Boys & Girls Clubs Chill Zone.
Kids relax in the Boys & Girls Clubs Chill Zone.
ASBURY PARK, N.J. - Aug. 10, 2023 - PRLog -- Summer camp at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County (BGCM/the Club) has always been a place where kids have fun swimming, playing sports, and trying new activities. This summer, it is also where children can get mental health support to strengthen their well-being and tutors to sharpen reading and math skills.

In the wake of the disruptive pandemic and its profound effects on children's mental health and learning, BGCM is seizing summer as an opportunity to nurture the holistic development of 390 kids at its four summer day camps in Asbury Park, Long Branch, Neptune, and Red Bank.

"We're giving our kids a fun, safe, supportive environment where they can thrive in every way - socially, emotionally, academically and physically," said Douglas Eagles, chief executive officer of BGCM, a charitable youth development organization that has been strengthening area children and teens for 85 years.

Supported by a team of well-trained youth development professionals who serve as role models for campers from ages 6-13, summer camp at the Club offers area youth opportunities to learn, grow and start the new school year strong.

For working families, summer camp gives them peace of mind knowing that their children are safe and gaining new skills. "My three boys absolutely love the variety of activities that they are provided.  From swimming to surfing, to arts and crafts, they always come home with a new story. Summer camp also supports me in being able to work while knowing my children are safe and having fun," said Angel Virola, whose sons attend the Asbury Park camp.

Improving Mental Health
Alongside swim lessons, shooting hoops, and a host of other camp activities, children are learning how to "regulate their emotions" through the Club's trauma-informed care initiative. Now in its second year, trauma-informed care helps children heal from the effects of traumatic experiences, explains Destiny Smith, the Club's area director who oversees summer camps. When not addressed, trauma can trigger intense anxiety and stress linked to heightened health risks, mental health and behavior problems, risky behaviors, and other health conditions, Smith added.

"We want kids to know that it's ok not to feel ok," said Smith, 26, an alum of the Club.

When campers are feeling angry, stressed, or experiencing other overwhelming emotions, they are encouraged to visit the "Chill Corner," a designated area where they can regroup and reset themselves. The Club's youth development professionals also regularly engage with small groups of campers in the "Chill Zone," a spot equipped with comfortable bean bags, sensory toys, special books, and social-emotional activities designed to stem anxiety and build resilience.

Closing Learning Gaps
The Club is also focusing on preventing summer learning loss, often referred to as the "summer slide." Students typically lose about one month of learning over the summer, but for kids from low-income families, the loss is more severe, and the achievement gap only widens over the years, Eagles said. "The pandemic made matters worse by disrupting learning, sinking math and reading scores to historic lows," he said.

Through a partnership with the New Jersey Tutoring Corps., campers in kindergarten to fifth grade receive high-dosage tutoring in math and reading twice a week for 30-45 minutes to keep their skills sharp.

Other academic activities include a video production class called Y-Media that empowers campers to create video stories about themselves and their communities, themed group projects to promote learning in science, technology, engineering, and math concepts (STEM), and Summer Brain Gain, an evidence-based program that is proven to bolster learning during the summer months.

Making Memories
While summer camp has shifted to address mental health and learning loss, one thing has not changed – it is still a fun place where kids make lifelong friends and memories.

Every week, campers are introduced to fresh experiences that broaden their horizons, such as field trips to parks and museums and recreational activities like surfing, tennis, and yoga. Children also receive breakfast and lunch every day in partnership with Fulfill of Monmouth and Ocean Counties.

An all-time favorite activity at camp is swimming in the Club's six-lane indoor pool in Asbury Park. Campers participate in structured, small-group swim lessons, and learn how to be safe in and around water, Smith said.

"With our service area being along the Jersey Shore, the ability to swim is critical," Smith said.

Eagles said BGCM is grateful for the many partners and donors who support the summer camp program and make it possible for kids to learn and thrive, especially the Jules L. Plangere, Jr. Family Foundation, which underwrites summer camp at the Asbury Park unit, where all children attend at no cost to their families.

For more information about BGCM programs, visit the organization's website at

About Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County

Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County (BGCM) does whatever it takes to empower all young people — especially those who need us most — to achieve their full potential. For 85 years, we've been providing safe places, caring mentors, and life-changing programs that help youth thrive. We're the region's leading charitable youth development organization with Club locations in Asbury Park, Long Branch, Neptune, and Red Bank, NJ. Explore our supportive out-of-school-time education, technology, nutritional, and athletic programs that build bright futures at

Source:Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County
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Tags:Summer Camp, Mental Health, Learning Gaps
Location:Asbury Park - New Jersey - United States
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Page Updated Last on: Aug 10, 2023

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