Interview with Michael P. Hayes, Board President, Summer SEALS
Aug 22, 2014 02:45PM
● By Erica Shames
August 2012 - The Northumberland National Bank presented a check to the Summer SEALS Day Camp for $1,000. Front row (L to R) are students Landon Einsig, Destiny Rivera, Johanna Laux, Mitchell Brosius, Makenna Kratzer and Isaac Hoffman. Back row (L to R) are Michael Hayes, President of the Summer SEALS Day Camp Board, Dorothy Anderson, Board member, Lauren Hoover and Ryan McGuire, co-directors of the camp and Don Steele, Chairman, President and CEO of The Northumberland National Bank. To learn more about the program go to www.summerseals.org
Susquehanna Life Magazine: You have been involved with the SEALS day camp for many years. In your mind, what is the most compelling part of this program for children?
Michael P. Hayes: While there are a number of compelling aspects, the most compelling has to be the transformation we witness in the campers' sense of self, confidence and academic growth (i.e., core reading and mathematics skills). These kids—who otherwise tend to fall through the cracks— tend not to find school very rewarding as they struggle to keep pace academically with their peers.
In the summer camp program they begin to experience meaningful success and begin to believe in themselves. The teacher-to-camper ratio affords lots of individualized, focused attention and support. Additionally, the program strives to make learning an enjoyable experience— not just sitting in rows and completing worksheets. The staff— talented students in SU's Education Program—breathe life into the camp's curriculum and activities. Their enthusiasm for learning is infectious. Each summer the campers lament the end of the program, and departing 5th graders consistently ask if they can come back for a third summer.
The collaboration between our Board of Directors, Susquehanna University’s Education Department, the Selinsgrove Area School District, Selinsgrove Rotary/Selinsgrove Area Community Foundation and our growing base of loyal donors is also noteworthy. Yankee ingenuity, creative synergy and lots of magic make Summer SEALS tick. On a recent Saturday morning, I found a note from one of our loyal donors stating, "Happy New Year to all the Summer SEALS Day Camp Board. M and I were sent the enclosed check (i.e., $75 from Valley Forge Financial Group, Inc.) and asked to make it out to the "charity" of our choice. We immediately thought of you and the children you serve. We hope this check to Summer SEALS Day Camp will contribute to the wonderful work that you do. Best wishes for another successful year. M & R." This note/contribution is a first for our program—like the $20,000 EITC donation we received in November 2013 from M&T Bank.
While I believe Summer SEALS is truly special, I also know that our success is made possible largely due to the specialness of the Susquehanna Valley— a place where folks work hand-in-hand with other community members to enrich lives locally.
SLM: What strides do children make after taking part in the day camp?
MPH: There are many. We see measureable improvements in campers' reading and mathematics skills in our annual program evaluation data (pre-/post-camp assessments with a comparison group of "matched" peers who did not attend camp). Behaviorally we also see changes, like campers beginning to check out books from the public library instead of DVDs. Socially, the campers forge new friendships and their confidence grows. Our first class of campers is now sophomores. One member of that camper class has chosen Summer SEALS as the focus for her graduation project. She's raised over $700 to support the program and plans to assist the teachers this summer with some of the learning activities. The same young woman has achieved honor roll status, an achievement her mother and grandparents did not believe was within her reach as a 3rd grader.
SLM: What do you want readers to come away with after reading this interview in Susquehanna Life magazine?
MPH: Confirmation that each of us can make a meaningful difference locally—working with others who share a passion, through commitment and patience... together we can do great things! Summer SEALS truly enriches lives, one summer at a time!
SLM: What are your biggest needs—contributions, day campers or both?
MPH: Our program is provided at no cost to the campers and their families— funded entirely by tax-deductible donations. While we always welcome contributions, our goal in seeking an article in Susquehanna Life is to shine a light on the qualities that make our program and this region truly special. Unfortunately, the school district has more students who would benefit from the program than we are able to serve each summer (i.e., 15 rising 4th graders and 15 rising 5th graders).
SLM: Anything to add?
MPH: The EITC angle is a facet of the program that merits mention, specifically the catalyst that led Weis Markets to begin its participation in the EITC program.
Donations to SSDC are tax deductible given our IRS 501(c)(3) designation and can be made to:
Summer SEALS Day Camp
P.O. Box 295
Selinsgrove, PA 17870
The first camp was held in the summer of 2007 and has continued to grow. We are beginning to work on establishing an endowment, which will free us from the pressures of annual fundraising ($50,000) and enable us to explore program expansion. Programmatically, we strive each and every year to “polish the stone” and ensure each camper has the experience of her or his young life—one to recall fondly for many years to come.
If you have a few minutes, our website has a video (summerseals.org, produced and donated by Steve Patterson with Patterson & Brandt) that will give you a feel for who we are and what we do. Thanks!