Strong Partnerships Propel Camelot Students in Florida
One of the secrets to Camelot’s incredible record of success helping students overcome hurdles is the power of partnerships.
While relationships with community organizations are hallmarks at all Camelot programs, nowhere is it more in evidence than at Camelot Academy of Escambia. The campus has relationships with 14 outside agencies ranging from the Girl Scouts to the Waterfront Rescue Mission Shelter.
Julia Venturi, who was promoted this year to Director of Social Services for the K-12 campus, said she has watched students grow as people as a result of participation in these programs and from information and motivation from expert guest lectures.
“An example of a great partner is the PACE Center for Girls,” she said. “They have a Reach program where they offer free counseling and free tutoring. They also host groups and award scholarships. They come in during our Girls’ Circle time and present the information and then come back for an open house and have the sign-ups available for the families.”
Lutheran Services comes in once a week to lead groups for boys and the Girl Scouts, through a grant program, will be presenting an eight-week anti-bullying series called Being Your Friend. Sometimes the outside partner is less formal. One student’s aunt knows about a great cook and gets them to come to do a cooking class.
“There’s a lot of good intention in this community,” Venturi said. “You just have to be able to coordinate it and that’s why these individuals and I work very closely together to make sure that everything is scheduled appropriately. We have a process in place to ensure that they’re successful when they come in. We want as many guest speakers and experts as we can get; as many different backgrounds and as much influence and exposure as we can get for the kids is the goal.”
A tangible benefit to all the interaction with outside groups is the message of service to others that students pick up. Many develop a desire to make a difference themselves. The Escambia students ran a food bank last year for Hurricane Harvey victims. This year they have scheduled community projects with the homeless. Students make breast cancer awareness signs and participate in the annual walk. They raised money for FavorHouse, an organization that helps victims of domestic violence.
“These activities help them with leadership and group organization skills,” said Venturi, who has a master’s degree in social work. “They do the planning. They have to propose the field trip and why an activity is important if it’s off-campus. They get some guidance but they are expected to lead. Our hope is when they go back to their regular school they will join an organization or start a group of their own.”
The 14 partner organizations include: Project Connect; Pace Center for Girls – Reach Program; Children’s Home Society; Lakeview Overlay Services; FavorHouse; FL Dept. of Health; Juvenile Probation; Pensacola State College; Lutheran Services; University of West Florida – Social Work Department; Girls Scouts of America; Marcus Pointe Baptist Church; Waterfront Rescue Mission Shelter; and Ronald McDonald House.