Part of HYPE’s mission is to help young professionals become better engaged in community life, expand professional and social opportunities, and become ambassadors for the Hartford Region. HYPE encourages cross-collaboration among agencies and organizations that offer opportunities to volunteer in the community. The Community Conversations series focuses on interviewing professionals in a local nonprofit to bring awareness to their mission, highlight their impact in the community, and provide information on how to get more involved with the organization. For the August 2019 edition Community Involvement Committee member Beth Matonak interviewed McKinley Albert, Executive Director & CEO of Hartford's Camp Courant.
What is the mission of your organization?
Hartford’s Camp Courant is a youth development organization and the oldest and largest FREE summer day camp in the nation. Camp Courant is celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2019.
Camp Courant’s mission is to provide Hartford children equal opportunity to participate in recreational and educational experiences that balance fun with enrichment while expanding horizons, instilling confidence, promoting healthy lifestyle choices, and inspiring big dreams for the future.
What is your role within the organization?
I have been with Camp Courant since 2013, and have been fortunate enough to serve as the Executive Director since 2015. In my role as the Executive Director, I provide strategic leadership in the development of philanthropic relationships throughout greater Hartford in support of Camp’s programmatic priorities. In partnership with our Board of Directors, local foundations, businesses and individual funders, I help identify and grow the resources to support Camp Courant’s programs and organizational development in order to provide the best summer experience possible for Hartford’s young people. Translation-I wear many hats. One day I could be meeting with a partner to talk about programming for the camp season, and the next day I could be raking leaves with volunteers at the campsite. It is the absolute BEST job in the entire world.
How do you implement your services or programs?
Camp Courant is so fortunate to have an amazing staff and committed partners. We work directly with organizations throughout the greater Hartford community to implement our programs, whether it is having LEGO come out and do a campus-wide build day focused on STEM and manufacturing, to partnering with our friends at the Yard Goats and taking the entire camp to Dunkin Donuts park and having the Music and Performing Art program sing the national anthem. We have at least 2-3 community partners on campus doing programming with our campers every single day during the summer, and they work alongside our fantastic program directors, all of whom are certified teachers, and many of which have been with Camp for 20+ years. Camp Courant is able to offer traditional Camp programming, such as swimming, arts & crafts and sports, but because of the support in the community, we are also able to offer over a dozen educational programs ranging from Nature to Financial Literary. Camp Courant is a pretty special place, and our young people are getting the opportunity to not only have an amazing summer outdoors, but also learn while they are here. They are better prepared to go back to school in the fall, and that is because everyone who works here, and all of our community partners and volunteers truly believe in the mission and vision of Camp. That is why we have been able to do this work for well over a century.
In what ways has your organization been impactful to your cause?
Camp Courant has been a pillar in the Hartford community for 125 years. The Hartford Courant founded our organization over a century ago to provide an opportunity for young people to get outside of the City and experience the great outdoors and ‘play.’ 125 years later, that mission still rings true.
At Hartford’s Camp Courant, harnessing the ‘power of play’ is a core component of our mission. ‘Play’ allows our campers to use their creativity, whether its creating a scoring strategy on the basketball court or building a complicated bridge out of LEGO’s in our STEM classroom. ‘Play’ allows our campers to develop their imaginations, from concocting and acting out a fictional ‘whodunnit’ case in our Mock Trial program, to creating an original song in our Music and Performing Arts program. ‘Play’ allows our campers to be inquisitive, engaging and interactive. ‘Play’ allows our campers to tackle new and exciting tasks, helping them to conquer their fears, develop new skills and enhance their confidence and resiliency. ‘Play’ gives our campers an opportunity to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts.
Too many young people in Hartford don’t have the opportunity to ‘play,’ nor do they have the opportunity to access structured, educational programming during the summer months. At Camp Courant, we do both, and our campers have the summer of a lifetime.
How does someone get more involved?
Volunteers are the lifeblood of Camp, and are absolutely vital to achieving our mission. We have over 2,000 volunteers per year between the months of April and November, and opportunities range from cleanup projects to programming on the campsite alongside our campers. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Andrea Kowalsky, Director of Finance and Facilities by email or phone at (860) 244 - 2835 x 1002. You can also attend an event like the annual Buddy Bash (Friday, September 13th this year!).