Summer camps go virtual in COVID-19 response


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A local summer camp is learning how to continue to engage with campers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Traci Chisholm started the Crowned Academy five years ago and usually has around 100 campers each summer.

The camp focuses on African American girls between the ages of 5 and 15.

“We try to expose them to unique opportunities that they’re normally not afforded to them because of their racial background or demographic, where they live, a number of factors. Instead of becoming a statistic, we want them to become the standard,” she said.

Chisholm says the program focuses on education, formation and development and offers many of the girls a glimpse at what all they can be.

After graduating from Hampton University with a degree in physics, she worked as a nuclear engineer at NASA, Jefferson Labs and the Department of Defense.

“What I saw when I was there was that I was an extreme minority, not just that I was an African American, but that I was a woman,” Chisholm said.

So, she quit to run the nonprofit full time to educate young girls.

Chisholm says she wanted to continue to offer the camp this year and they’re doing so by cutting down in-person attendance as well as offering a virtual “Out of the Box” option.

“For four to six hours a day while your child is at home, she can be entertained, engaged educationally while we’re still aiding in her formation and development because it’s all about shaping what we believe to be leaders who will change the world,” she said.

The “Out of the Box” experience will provide campers with all the materials they’ll need straight to their doors such as books and science labs.

Chisholm says campers will also have pen pals and be in on virtual classes to continue to learn.

One of the benefits of providing a virtual option is the increased awareness about the camp.

Chisholm says they’ve already had people register for 10 other states.

“I’m ready to engage with them on a national basis,” she said.

At the end of the program, Chisholm says the girls are crowned to help them feel their sense of purpose. Right now, many of them need it because of the toll on mental health during the pandemic.

“We’re not thinking about our children during this time. They’re going through some difficult times. They’re missing their friends, missing that connection. We want to create an environment, a positive environment where they could share, express themselves, and still be creative and have a good time like they would in a normal summer camp,” she said.

Registration is open for the camp.

To learn more, click here.

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