An annual program for children to improve their reading and writing skills will remain indefinitely at Baylor University each summer, thanks to a $1.6 million gift from the Waco Scottish Rite Charitable Foundation.
Since 2003, the foundation has paid for Camp Success, a four-week intervention program offered free of charge to children age 5 to 18 who have language-based reading impairments. The program has served 1,130 children, and 96 are participating in this year’s camp, which is ongoing.
The Scottish Rite gift creates a permanent endowment for the camp, which is put on by Baylor’s department of communication sciences and disorders.
“We could not be more thankful,” said Michaela Ritter director of language for the department’s Literacy Clinic.
The camp offers training for reading, writing and language deficiencies and individualized treatments including work with visual tools, manipulative techniques, an interactive metronome and more, Ritter said.
“We’re able to spend three hours a day for four weeks with these children,” Ritter said. “They’re getting around 50 hours of intensive treatment, which in a private sector or school system, it’d be very difficult for a child to be taken out of school for that much treatment.”
Peter Grandjean, a Baylor health and human performance professor, said two of his children have gone through the program with great success.
“It’s fundamentally changing the lives of these kids,” Grandjean said. “They’re able now to reach their potential, whereas, without these skills of reading and comprehending and writing, they just wouldn’t be able to do the things they’re capable of doing now.”
This summer, 48 graduate students are working in the camp as part of their coursework, Ritter said.
“When a child is a poor reader, it’s language based,” Ritter said. “We do a comprehensive evaluation and we find out, what are the specific areas of weaknesses? Then we find the strengths, the weaknesses, and after that we determine, what is the best treatment for that child?”
Camp Success has been a positive force in the community, and Waco is fortunate to have it, said Claude Ervin, chairman of the Waco Scottish Rite Charitable Foundation.
“The crux of it is, it’s all about the kids,” Ervin said.
Melinda Suchecki said the program transformed the lives of two of her children. Today, both of her children are doing well academically.
“By understanding more about both of their learning styles, I was equipped for the future to talk with teachers and even call the department when I had questions,” she said in an email response to questions. “This program helped me to become an active participant in my children’s education. I also believe their study habits today are a direct reflection of their time at Camp Success.”