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07/03/2018

Generous Macfeat Donor Makes a Difference in Children's Lives

Quick Facts

 The group featured an eclectic mix of children whose first language is Spanish, as well as English speakers enrolled in Rock Hill Schools’ language immersion program.
 The children gained exposure to the different languages through center time, books, poems, songs and other activities.
 The camp was made possible through a generous partnership with Nancy Jones '75, '77.

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ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA — Macfeat Early Childhood Laboratory School Director Erin Hamel was in tears before work this summer…but they were happy tears. Happy, because thanks to a generous Winthrop University donor, 16 local children received an amazing and free summer camp opportunity.

“I don't want to say goodbye to these children tomorrow,” Hamel said the last day of camp. “It has been an amazing experience for all of us.”

Macfeat, housed on Winthrop’s campus in the Withers/W.T.S. Building, hosted a one-week English Learner Bilingual Summer Literacy Camp for rising kindergarten and first graders. The group featured an eclectic mix of children whose first language is Spanish, as well as English speakers enrolled in Rock Hill Schools’ language immersion program.

The children gained exposure to the different languages through center time, books, poems, songs and other activities. In addition, “peer mentors”—rising sixth graders who are the first to completely go through the immersion program—helped communicate with the children’s parents and facilitate the various activities. Richmond Drive Elementary School’s Rebeca Garcia, a Spanish-speaking teacher, as well as Macfeat’s lead kindergarten teacher Liz McNelly, worked together to plan and implement culturally relevant literacy engagements for the campers.

"We could not have picked better teachers to lead this year’s camp,” Hamel said.

She was inspired to host the camp after attending a National Network for Education Renewal conference in the Bronx, New York.

“I just needed to do something,” she said. “Some children don’t get opportunities to enjoy a summer camp experience, and Macfeat is sitting here with all of these materials and space.”

Coincidentally, Winthrop’s Division of University Advancement also reached out to Hamel: a donor, Nancy Jones ’75, ’77, was interested in learning how she could support Macfeat.

“Macfeat first touched my heart when I took an elective child development class, which allowed me to assist students through observation/participation,” Jones said. “This elective class was the turning point for me to change from chemistry to an early childhood/elementary major.”

Jones recalled being a student in the Winthrop Training School’s K5 class with the late Dr. Rosemary Althouse. Her son also attended Macfeat.

“We are a family of Macfeat lovers,” she said. “As a teacher for 35 years, I saw a need for students to work on needed skills as a pre-schooler so that they could begin their foundation for learning early. Also, as an alumna, I wanted to leave my legacy and give back to provide early experiences through Macfeat's programs. Making a difference in a child's life is an important part of who I am.”

Jones loved Hamel’s idea of helping to support the summer literacy camp, so Hamel reached out to Rock Hill Schools and its ParentSMART program to find interested students.

“The children made friends fast,” Hamel said. “This was a pilot year for the camp. We’re planning to expand it next year, with more students and a larger age range.”

For more information on Macfeat, contact Hamel at 803/323-4545 or hamele@winthrop.edu.

For more information on University Advancement and how you can support university initiatives and programs such as the Macfeat Summer Reading program, call 803/323-2275.

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