ConVal Quest a rousing success

From what we saw and heard last week, the ConVal Quest summer camp program in Hancock was everything it was promised to be when Peterborough Rotary Club members pitched the idea to the School Board last November.

Seventy-four students from the ConVal district’s two middle schools spent a week away from home at the Nature’s Classroom adventure camp at Sargent Center. They got to make new friends, learn more about the wonderful natural environment to be found right here in their own backyard, swim and kayak, and test their courage on the ropes courses, while also having a chance to sharpen their academic skills a bit during the summer.

The Peterborough Rotarians were inspired by the highly successful Camp Quest program, a joint effort of the Jaffrey-Rindge Rotary Club, Franklin Pierce University and the Jaffrey-Rindge School District that has been held at Franklin Pierce for several years. They brought the proposal to the School Board last year fairly late, just as the board was in the process of fine-tuning its 2014-2015 budget proposal. The Rotarians pledged to contribute $40,000 to pay half the cost of a two-week program and asked the board to include $40,000 in its budget. Board members agreed. But when the ConVal budget was rejected by voters in March, the school administration had to scale back, and as a brand-new program, ConVal Quest was understandably cut from the budget.

To their credit, the Rotarians kept their promise, paying the full cost for what became a one-week program. The students who participated were chosen by staff from the two middle schools, with the intent of providing an opportunity for kids who otherwise would not have had a summer camp opportunity.

Now the week at camp is over, but the Rotary Club and the staff at Nature’s Classroom still have an important task before them. They’ll be looking at what the kids accomplished, both academically and in terms of personal growth, and analyzing feedback from the campers, their parents and the ConVal educators who went to Hancock to see the program in action. Then they’ll no doubt be heading back to the School Board — as early as possible, we hope — to ask again for money in the budget in order to do a two-week session next year.

Camp Quest in Jaffrey and Rindge is a wonderful example of how a school district can partner with a service club to provide enrichment programs for students that the district might struggle to afford on its own. Now that the Peterborough Rotary has stepped forward and made a similar program work for ConVal, let’s hope the School Board — and most importantly the voters — will give it their full support next year.

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