The True to Life Foundation “Sizzlin’ Hot Fun Summer Program” wrapped up earlier this month, after eight weeks of learning, field trips, mentoring opportunities, and exploring.

This year’s theme was “Our World Around Us,” which focused on showing kids just how much the world has to offer—from different cultures to new opportunities. “One of the biggest focuses of the camp is to expose children to opportunities available to them,” said Rechel Anyaeche, Director of Programs for the True to Life Foundation. These opportunities include things like science and educational brush-ups, museum field trips, boating, kiting, and bowling. “We want to increase our youths’ exposure and have them be more aware of the world around them,” said Anyaeche.

Kids in the program were also matched with pen pals around the world so they could interact with people from different countries and cultures. “We want them to understand themselves as global citizens, and know they’re part of a larger world,” said Anyaeche.

The Chicago City of Learning has been working with the True to Life Foundation on summer programs for about two years. Year-round programs focus on academic education, crisis intervention for high-needs kids, and positive self-expression through the arts. After learning to interact with kids their age through leadership and team-building exercises in summer camp and other programs, the Chicago City of Learning offers a mentorship program for students.

The Teen Shift Mentoring Program teaches young teens how to have positive interactions with their friends, family members, and teachers. Its goal is to shift viewpoints through a method called Freak, Find, Flip. Christina Bellamy, Facilitator and Coordinator of the mentor program, explained how this helps students shift their reactions to situations from negative to positive. “They flip the situation on its head and look at it from a different angle, find something they are not readily seeking, and freak by doing something irregular or different in their reaction,” she said.  Throughout the summer program, teen mentors can work with younger children to imprint these values early on.

Bellamy says in addition to behavior shifts, she sees kids in the summer camp learning new things at a quick rate. “They learn things they probably wouldn’t learn at home,” she said. “I hear them speaking Spanish words on the bus, or discussing different things they’ve learned on field trips.”

Throughout the program, children can obtain digital badges and track their progress on their online profile. Starting as young as age five, they can earn badges for service and learning programs, encouraging them to stay on track and progress toward higher badge levels. “They get to a point where they can be interactive with their skills,” Anyaeche said. “It’s an opportunity for them to learn at all ages.”

The summer program was for children ages five to 12, with the mentoring program for students ages 13-15. Year-round programs at the True to Life Foundation promote competent, complete and creative families through education, crisis intervention, and restorative programs. 

To learn more about True to Life Foundation, visit their website