“Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” – Mattie Stepanek, American Poet.
When I walked into the Shortlidge Boys & Girls Club today, the only word that came to mind was “unity.” There was laughter. There was camaraderie and fun. There was a effortless synergy in the camp – a seamless system that operated from mutual understanding, respect, and friendship.
The SLC Shortlidge team includes Operations Specialist Michael Chen, a rising junior at Newark Charter High School, Instructional Coach Casey Krouse, a third grade teacher at Family Foundations Academy, Instructional Coach Laura Knappenberger, a third grade teacher at Gateway Lab School, and Curriculum Director Anthony Bonaddio, a Student Support Specialist.
From the very beginning of the summer, the leader of the team, Bonaddio, made sure everyone felt welcomed. Before curriculum started, he met with everyone to discuss their personal goals for this summer. They then, as team members do, listened to his. Knappenberger testified to the fact that there wasn’t a long acclimation period because their personalities mixed and blended naturally well and quickly.
There was no need for formal team building. “The best way to explain it would be that we formed organically. We understood quickly that we had to jump into the fire and expect a lot of on the fly adjusting,” says Bonaddio, “we know that there is no such thing as ‘picture perfect’ and instead strive to produce the best product we can.”
The Shortlidge team, as is expected at any camp, was met with many obstacles. Scheduling, timing, understaffing, inconsistency, supplies…all daily struggles. Yet, I could tell by their dynamic that there was never a moment of discouragement or doubt. They problem solved together, going outside of their job descriptions to help one another. Whenever an issue arose, they always asked each other for advice – in the belief that everyone’s input is valuable, regardless of age or background.
This free-form, accepting mindset is what has made Shortlidge so successful. Each member of the team is pushing each other to be better. “Stepping out of our comfort zone is what this summer is all about,” says Knappenberger, “in order to handle situations to the best of our abilities we must make this space our own and always, always, improve.”
As I saw the team interact and work together, it was apparent that even on the most stressful of days, they had fun. They clearly enjoy being around each other and exercised their ability to speak freely. This comfort level has spread to the rest of the B&G staff. Each member of the SLC team has sat down multiple times with all of the counselors, to check in and simply talk. “It doesn’t feel like the SLC team and the B&G Club team are separate…we are connected – we are all in this together,” says Chen.
These teams have worked together to utilize the resources they have been provided, teach the curriculum with fidelity, and turn this summer experience into one the kids will always remember. During capture the flag last week, the counselors tailored the lesson so they could play outside on a larger scale. They knew what would keep the kids engaged, and this is the sort of spirit they inject into everything they do.
“This experience has allowed me to mature,” says Chen, “I was used to being the leader at school or at home, but now I am part of a team. Relying on other people has taught me that you can’t do everything by yourself and that it is more than okay to ask for help.”
Shortlidge has truly taken the spirit of collaboration to heart. They have learned how to maximize their potential as a team and execute a high-quality summer experience for our highest-need youth. This represents everything the SummerCollab stands for at it’s core. This is about teamwork – this is about collaboration – this is about unity and love.
“We are each other’s best resources, and in this building, we are each other’s best friends.” – Bonaddio