Kids’ University (KU) provides over 300 children, ages 4-12, residing in Dallas area homeless shelters with a rewarding and educational summer camp experience on the The University of Texas at Dallas campus. Two separate sessions, four days each, are designed to make learning fun while instilling in children the belief and goal that they can achieve a higher education. Participants attend different interactive classes during the week, including engineering, computer science, geology, math, nutrition, and more. They explore different career opportunities while being exposed to a collegiate campus environment. Additionally, each day participants meet with a mentor and peers to discuss the importance of topics like staying in school, making healthy decisions, and staying drug-free during Rainbow Days’ nationally recognized Curriculum-Based Support Group (CBSG®) Program. On the final day of camp, graduates attend a highly emphasized Graduation Ceremony sporting bright colored caps and gowns where they hear an inspirational commencement speaker, walk across the stage to receive their diploma, and shake hands with Dr. George Fair, UT Dallas’ Dean of General Studies.
Benefits of Kids' University
For the great majority of children residing in shelters, summer activities are extremely limited, leaving adequate time to seek out trouble or make unhealthy decisions. KU provides a safe, fun, educational environment away from the homeless shelters, allowing them to just be a kid. The camp also encourages them to find career paths that interest them and set goals for the future that include a college education to help them obtain those goals and career choices. They begin to realize more opportunities exist for them beyond what they see in their immediate lives. On the first day of camp, when asked what he wanted to be when he grows up, 11-year-old Nathan replied he, “wanted to be a hot dog vendor,” – the job his mother’s boyfriend currently held. As the week concluded, after many positive experiences with adult mentors and educational classes including a veterinarian, when asked again, Nathan replied that he, “wants to work with animals and to be a veterinarian.” He was then asked what are some things he needs to do to pursue his dream, and Nathan responded that he, “needed to stay in school, work hard, and not do bad things like drugs.”
Goals of Kids' University
Rainbow Days’ overall goals for the children participating in Kids’ University are to:
- Improve self-worth and self-esteem to affirm their want for a better life
- Restore their sense of hope and purpose for the future;
- Strengthen their commitment to staying in school and valuing higher education;
- Reinforce their commitment to staying drug free by teaching the dangers and risks associated with alcohol, tobacco and drug use.
Proven Results of Kids' University
Through a pre- and post-survey of children participating in Kids’ University, children’s success is measured by assessing three key improvement areas: self-esteem and self-worth, hope and purpose for the future, and belief in the value of higher education. Based on previous year’s consistent outcomes:
- 88% of participants increased their sense of value, confidence and recognition of their individual capabilities and strengths, thereby increasing their sense of connectedness and belonging
- 65% of participants increased their sense of hope and purpose for the future
- 81% or participants placed a higher value on the role of education in achieving their goals