SPRING VALLEY — The Martin Luther King Multipurpose Center was abuzz with activity on a recent July afternoon.
It was around 11 a.m, and dozens of students in first through eighth grades were wrapping up the morning’s academic work — which follows Common Core standards — and readying for the special programs of the day.
Briana Leguillow, 17, a junior counselor at the camp, said she knows how essential the summer program is for the children because she went through the camp herself.
“They really explore their talents here,” Leguillow said. “Some of them sing, some of them dance, some of them actually find out new talents about themselves as soon as they come here.”
“For all these kids to come here, they really grow and, not only that, they learn too. … I feel this is the best place for them, especially in this community,” Leguillow added, who graduated from North Rockland High School and will attend Rockland Community College in the fall.
But the annual summer camp nearly didn’t happen this year for the approximately 70 students — the majority of whom qualify for the free and reduced lunch program.
The Spring Valley Village Board refused to match last year’s funding level of $114,000 for months. After school had let out and facing a funding shortfall, parents were told the program was canceled.
“I felt that I let them (parents and children) down because I wasn’t able to complete that task and acquire enough funds to get it done.” Nathan Mungin III, executive director of the multipurpose center, recalled when he had to inform parents the summer camp was nixed at the end of June.
“Not just for the safety of their children, but because they want something in their neighborhood that’s going to do more than just let them play all day,” he added.
But well beyond the 11th hour, the village board set aside about $160,000 for summer programs for local students — about $80,000 of which went to the Martin Luther King Multipurpose Center’s camp.
Because of the delay, the camp lost a week and began on July 11.
State Assembly member Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, said she managed to get an additional $34,000 for the summer camp through state funding. Jaffee said her office also worked with the East Ramapo school district, the latter of which expanded its food program to include the camp as well as other programs in the area.
Jaffee said the “impact is enormous” of the annual summer camp and “will make a huge difference for them when they go back to school in September. … They will be prepared in the fall.”
Andrew Delva agrees.
Delva, the program director for the summer camp who lives in Spring Valley, said a lot of the students rely on the camp to prevent the summer academic slide and stay active after the school year ends. For these students, they have few — if any — other alternatives.
“It means a lot. It means everything,” said Delva, 34. Mentioning the various field trips the students will go on, he added: “A lot of these kids wouldn’t even leave Spring Valley if it weren’t for this program.”
Among the students attending the camp was Chaniya Williams, 10. Chaniya said she spent that morning going over language arts and mathematics, which she expected to help her when she enters sixth grade in a few months.
“When I come here, they help me remember what I learned in school,” she said.
Chaniya added that one of her favorite parts about the camp were the “trips where we actually go to learn information,” and looked forward to the upcoming trip to the Museum of Natural History in New York City.
Another student, Dorlynti Beaubais, 11, said her favorite activity at the camp was journalism.
“I like the newspaper, because I like to write about all the fun things everybody else gets to do,” Dorlynti said. “And I like to express my feelings and I like to write a lot.”