Saturday, August 15, 2009

Mixed Bag

Yesterday was finally the last day of summer camp at Freedom Theater and I couldn’t be happier! It’s been a busy six weeks for Freedom’s campers and their families. I have mixed feelings about my family's return to Freedom. For me, the experience has sort of been like being transported back to 1979 when I was a student at Freedom (three of the chief administrators of the camp also ran the camp when I attended), but mostly I’ve found myself completely frustrated by the organization’s lack of efficiency and preparedness.

Olivia and Yannick loved their time there this summer and it’s obvious they learned a lot. Both used muscles they never knew they had during daily rigorous workouts and as I posted earlier, Olivia somehow became coordinated and now moves rhythmically to the beat. Yannick learned to project when he speaks and it’s obvious his true place in the sun is definitely on the stage; and although he has tremendous role models, starting with the greatest daddy in the world, his time with Mr. Kareem and Mr. Khalil has also been invaluable, because as most folks know, African-American male teachers are rare in many schools. As part of their program at Freedom, the campers choose an elective and Yannick selected Vita Saana (African Martial Arts). His instructor was the incredibly strong Mwalimu Taliba and Yannick adores her. What an incredible experience for this little boy to learn to protect and defend himself by such a powerful woman!

The camp activities culminated with Freedom’s annual Moment of Sharing, an evening of performances by the campers. At the start of the day, we knew it was going to be a long one, because the kids had to be at camp at 8:45am and the day would be filled with dress and tech rehearsals prior to the performances. It was great to see the kids up on the big stage showcasing all they’d learned, but to be honest, the show went on for too long. The show started at 8pm and the curtain didn’t close until 10:45pm and we didn’t get home until midnight, only to have to be up by 7am to get them back to camp by 9am the next day. The Mango Tribe is exhausted.

As much as the kids enjoyed their experience at Freedom, Loverman and I are questioning whether we’d want the kids to return in the fall or even next summer for camp. My mom thinks it’s a no-brainer and we should just suck it up, but we found ourselves frustrated with some of Freedom’s administrative practices, feeling like our time and responsibilities outside of Freedom wasn't being respected. My biggest gripe is that we were usually given pertinent information at the 11th hour. A prime example is the kids’ participation in Freedom’s performance at the Please Touch Museum last Saturday. We were given less than a week’s notice about the event and instead of providing the rehearsal schedule before inviting the kids to participate, they hyped the kids up about the event, then informed the parents after we gave our consent that we would have to get the kids to early morning rehearsals for the five days prior to Saturday's performance. I don’t know about you, but in the Mango household, an hour earlier in the morning throws our entire morning routine into complete chaos, especially in the summer. The camp instructors and administrators don’t use email, their voicemail boxes are perpetually full and in addition to the substantial tuition, we were asked to participate in a fundraising campaign with the goal of every participant raising at least $75 and to sell five, $20 tickets for the Moment of Sharing.

I’m hoping a few weeks off and a little distance will provide me a bit of perspective. I’m sure part of my problem is that I was expecting things to ease up over the summer and it really hasn't. Maybe I need to understand that as my kids get older, their level of engagement in their activities will increase and I shouldn’t even expect a break. I'll try to focus more on the outcomes of their time at Freedom and remember that organzation's expertise is in preparing young people to perform well in life and in doing so, maybe it's o.k. for their administrative practices to be a bit lacking.

1 comment:

E. Marie said...

How I loved Freedom Theater. I know it's been over 30 years since I last visited but was great in the '70s.