October 11, 2019 Category: Stories

Karima’s Story: Growing Up with The Fresh Air Fund’s Career Awareness Program

The Fresh Air Fund believes that investing in a child’s journey through life provides an opportunity for young people to learn, grow and thrive in New York City and beyond.

In addition to providing life-changing summer experiences for children from New York City’s low-income communities, The Fresh Air Fund also offers year-round academic enrichment programming for students. One of The Fund’s year-round enrichment programs is the Career Awareness Program (CAP).

CAP is a comprehensive three-year program that provides year-round opportunities for students to learn about the relationship between education and careers. A recent pilot study found that participants who completed the program were 18% more likely to graduate high school on-time relative to comparable peers. This outcome is particularly significant as on-time graduation rates in New York City hover around 70%.

CAP graduates are also invited to participate in The Fund’s College Connections Program (CCP), which provides high school students enrolled in The Fresh Air Fund’s academic and leadership development programs with the resources, support and tools they need to apply to and graduate from college.

Camp Mariah is the summer component of CAP that children attend for three weeks each summer following sixth, seventh and eighth grades. While at camp, Career Awareness campers explore their interests in classes like film, photography, culinary arts, international relations and more. They also learn to create resumes and cover letters, in addition to participating in mock interviews, to prepare them for applying for jobs.

Named in honor of Fresh Air Fund Board member Mariah Carey, the camp celebrated its 25th anniversary this summer. Over the years, close to 3,000 children have attended Camp Mariah.

Mariah Carey visiting Camp Mariah in celebration of the camp’s 25th Anniversary – Karima is on the far right

The learning and growth does not stop once children graduate CAP and age out of being a camper. To prepare Camp Mariah alum for future leadership roles working with children and to gain work experience, The Fresh Air Fund offers the CAP Teen program. Through this program, former campers are able to apply to work at Camp Mariah while also participating in leadership workshops.

Fifteen-year-old Karima, a high school sophomore, can attest to the profound impact CAP has had on her life. After completing her years as a camper, she transitioned into a CAP Teen role this summer and was at Camp Mariah for the full six weeks.

Karima says that as a CAP Teen she facilitated weekly workshops and helped plan some of the evening activities for campers. She also served as a teaching assistant for the swimming class.

When asked what she learned serving as a CAP Teen this summer, Karima says, “Patience was a big lesson for me. Whether I was planning evening activities, leading a workshop for younger campers or teaching a swimming class, I learned how to be patient and become an independent leader.”

Karima (second from the left) with other participants in the CAP Teen program at
Camp Mariah

During the school year, CAP offers participants tutoring and mentoring. During the 2018-2019 school year, the program provided more than 10,000 hours of tutoring and mentoring.

Karima says the tutoring helped her better prepare for classes. In addition to helping with homework to ensure Karima understood the material, her tutor also helped her with time management skills, so she knows how to prioritize school work with her extracurricular activities, and helped her get organized.

“When I first came into tutoring, my papers were everywhere, not in folders, they were all disorganized,” Karima said. “My bookbag went from chaos to completely neat. Everything was perfect, like the red folders and the red notebooks were for math, and this and that. My tutor helped me a lot with that.”

Thanks to CAP, Karima is already thinking about her interests and how they may translate into an area of study in college and a future career path. In the meantime though, she plans to stay actively involved with The Fresh Air Fund and gain as much experience as she can transitioning from a CAP Teen to a Counselor-in-Training and ultimately a full-fledged counselor.

“Every single year, going to camp teaches me something new about myself,” Karima said. “It shows me something different every time. I’ve learned it is about getting everything you can from an experience. So I want to continue to go to camp in different roles to keep learning new things about myself.”

Make a donation today so more children can grow up with The Fresh Air Fund’s programs, gaining valuable life skills and experiences, and become leaders for other kids like them.