It’s an investment in our future.

That’s the word from the volunteers, professional staff and administrators at Groundwork San Diego – Chollas Creek. The local nonprofit utilized a $40,000 grant from the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund to operate a 10-week, outdoor fall STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) Camp for students at two Southeastern San Diego middle schools. Virtually all of the participants come from underrepresented populations who have been adversely impacted by the loss of in-person education during the pandemic. 

“We had some funding challenges and we had some COVID-19 challenges, and this grant was a godsend that provided so many students with an incredible opportunity,” said Groundwork San Diego CEO Leslie Reynolds.

Thirty-six students in all took part in the camp, which was held Monday through Thursday from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. at EarthLab, an outdoor climate action park near state Route 94 and Euclid Avenue.

Just having an opportunity to learn outside made a difference for the students. “A lot of these kids had not seen each other in more than six months,” said Educational Director Allie Sifrit.

A Collaborative Effort

The STEAM Camp included 40-minute learning activities pertaining to particular subjects ranging from engineering and mathematics to the arts. A true community effort, Groundwork San Diego partnered with several nonprofits in designing the program, including San Diego Canyonlands, which provided presentations on native plants, biodiversity and environmentally sensitive hugelkultur agricultural practices; A Reason to Survive (ARTS) for lessons about painting, designing and molding with clay; and Words Alive, which led students in reading two award-winning children’s books (Hey Kiddo and The Crossover).

“Working with other nonprofits strengthens our programming, builds our community and also exposes children to different careers they could pursue,” Reynolds emphasized.

Monica Romero, whose son, Adrian, attends Knox Middle School, spoke for many when detailing the camp’s benefits.

“It means a lot to me as well as his dad,” she said. “It’s something that we would not be able to provide at home, these kinds of things and education and fun learning and hands-on learning,” she said. “We could give him a book, we could take him to the library and say, ‘Hey, read all about science, read all about clouds, read about planting’ and things like that, but it’s not the same…I’m very happy that he was able to be enrolled. He’s really excited when he gets in the car and wants to explain to me what he’s learning.”

Community Support

Generous donations and support from the community made the STEAM Camp possible. The San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund has raised $66 million to date and provided approximately $58 million, including 280 grants to more than 200 area nonprofit partners like Groundwork San Diego that are struggling from the financial fallout of the pandemic.

Numerous nonprofit professionals say their organizations would no longer be able to provide critical services to society’s most vulnerable if not for the emergency grants. Almost 80% of people served through the fund live in poverty, and 56% of grantees – including Groundwork San Diego – reported receiving additional funding as a result of their grant from The San Diego Foundation, allowing them to expand programs and serve more people.

Reynolds expressed just how invaluable that support was to their ability to continue impacting the lives of students and families adversely affected by COVID-19.

“I really want to give The San Diego Foundation and the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund our deep appreciation for taking a risk and investing in this effort that is benefitting the community, leveraging significant funding, building a better future for our children.” You can help by donating to the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund today.