A super Supercamp Bright Light: Sally Michel's pilot program could become permanent fixture for city kids.

December 27, 1997

A YEAR AGO, nobody had heard of Supercamp, the summer day camp that brightened the lives of 460 city 8-year- olds this past summer. Sally Michel, who came up with the idea last winter, surprised even herself when she realized the idea would be going from dream to reality by the time the school year ended.

Ms. Michel, the kind of indispensable citizen usually described as "a long-time civic activist," would be a hard woman to surprise. But then, given her tenacious commitment to this city and its people, she is clearly a woman people don't like to disappoint.

When she approached various foundations, businesses and individuals with the Supercamp idea last spring, she expected to begin lining up support so the camp could open in the summer of 1998. Instead, as she recalled earlier this year, "Nobody said 'no,' " and with $500,000 in grants and donations, Supercamp rolled out last summer in four locations around the city.

With two hours of reading instruction each day, plus activities in the arts, archaeology, sailing and other areas, children from all parts of the city went back to school this fall with the benefit of two months of academic enrichment, rather than long weeks of academic stalemate.

The transition from third grade to fourth seems to be one of those crucial times in the lives of children when they either move successfully into higher-level work or slip so far behind academically that they never catch up. It is also the age when many young people confront deci- sions about using or avoiding drugs. The idea of Supercamp is to help tilt the balance toward success for as many children as possible.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke was so pleased with Supercamp that he is calling for the program to expand to all children in the city who are finishing third grade without reading at grade level. That could mean as many as 5,000 children next summer. At a cost of about $1,000 per child, the expansion will be a formidable challenge. But as Ms. Michel has ably shown this year, it is certainly not impossible.

For her dedication to the children of Baltimore and her indomitable determination to brighten their lives and the welfare of this community, we salute Sally Michel and all the Bright Lights like her who dare to turn big dreams into reality.

Bright Lights will spotlight people who make a real difference in the quality of life of the Baltimore metropolitan area. It will appear periodically in these columns of the editorial page.

Pub Date: 12/27/97

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