Two high school students bring summer fun to kids from Ann Arbor to India.
Published in July, 2020
Adi Orlyanchik is a rising senior at Washtenaw International High School in Ypsilanti. When Covid-19 scuttled her spring and summer plans, she spent a lot of time at home with her younger siblings. She realized that under quarantine, "kids' social needs aren't being met, and their energy isn't getting out," she says. And as her siblings grew more restless, "it was increasingly difficult for my parents to continue working."
Orlyanchik recalled that a classmate, Anusha Gupta, had once created a summer camp curriculum for a class project, and asked her if she would like to adapt it to an online format. Gupta agreed, and the two friends dove into creating the curriculum for a virtual "Camp Covid" that runs the duration of the summer.
When the girls advertised the free classes on Facebook at the end of June, "the response was huge," says Orlyanchik. They capped the classes at twenty-five students, and most had a long wait list. To expand the number of kids they could accommodate, "we started reaching out to students to see if they wanted to teach." Once again, the response was huge. Twenty five students from local high schools volunteered to develop their own classes.
Gupta explains that all classes fit into one of three educational categories: creative, educational, and fitness. Each counselor builds their curriculum with guidance from both Orlyanchik and Gupta. "To be engaging to the kids it has to be something the counselors want to do," says Orlyanchik. Classes include creative journaling, hands-on science projects, origami, yoga, and coding. The highly interactive classes are designed for children from four to eleven years old.
Gupta says the biggest challenge has been to help students with what they are doing. "We can't help with the scissors or measure out the correct amount of something for an experiment," she says, but on the positive side it has helped them to learn problem solving skills. "When a kid messes up it's our instinct
to want to do it for them. In [Camp Covid], kids have the chance to do everything themselves."
Orlyanchik had an especially great time teaching a "Hands-on Fun" class before the 4th of July weekend. "The kids were so excited and we had so many fun conversations about how we celebrate the 4th of July-who likes fireworks, who likes to eat what. These are the things that make camp special to me. We are building a relationship with these kids"-some of whom hail from as far as Texas, California, Egypt, and India.
Camp Covid is a blast for students and counselors alike, but behind the scenes, it's also hard work. "It's a lot of administrative work and a lot of late nights," says Orlyanchik. "It's been really helpful to work with Anusha! We really balance eachother out. My weaknesses are her strengths. We are both very determined, Type A go-getters, which is great because there's so much to do for this camp!"
"Adi and I have been great friends since freshman years, and I am so grateful to be able to work with her on this because I am not sure I could do this with someone else," says Gupta.
Although the two have not been able to see each other in person, working together has made this summer of missed friends and summer plans special for them as well as their campers.
[Originally published in July, 2020.]
On July 10, 2020, Indu wrote:
I know Anusha since she was elementary school. She loves children, willing to volunteer for good cause, very sincere and hard working girl. She puts her heart and soul whatever she decides to do and ever looks back. I wish her and Adi success and joy for this project. What a noble cause they have picked up during this pandemic is very commendable.
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