Kids playing games

I’m inspired by the community we are building

By Martha Hoeppner.

It’s been about 2 months since we opened up our doors in our new location at Salem Lutheran Church. The space that was graciously given to us for our Learning Center was previously used as the youth room of the church. After a fresh coat of paint, trips to the dumpster, and re-arranging of some furniture, our space was ready for students and volunteers on January 12. 

We currently serve 8 students on Tuesdays and Thursdays ranging in ages from 8-14. We have a dedicated group of 14 volunteers who share a common goal of wanting to help give these kids  the tools and support they need to succeed. During our sessions we work on homework in addition to having fun playing games, creating art, and building a community. The Camden Collective recognizes the challenges families are facing with distance learning and social isolation.  We are a place where students can safely learn and express themselves.  

As Program Manager of the Learning Center, I’m inspired by the community we are building with our students/volunteers and hope we can reach more students in the future.   

This month we worked with Growing Green Hearts (Heidi Ferris) to introduce students to native plants of Minnesota and how to prepare for growing vegetables with our climate. Students were able to get their hands dirty mixing the starter kit and water, while learning about the necessary ingredients to start the growing process. The students planted 2 trays full of native plants (Black-eyed Susan, purple cornflower, etc.) and veggies (tomatoes, peppers, basil, etc.).  We look forward to seeing how these plants and students grow in the months ahead. We hope we have inspired a future gardener, engineer, teacher, or chef!

We are always looking for volunteers to work in our program. You do not need to be a trained educator, but a caring adult willing to connect with a child. Sometimes it is as simple as that. Volunteers may help students get an assignment completed, read with a child, learn math fractions, create a picture, or lose in the game of Sorry! The best line I heard from a student as we were leaving the other night was, “This was the BEST day EVER! I can’t wait to come back!” I felt the same.