Story by Danielle Barbour
The Warwick Area Migrant Committee (WAMC) held a six-week Summer Enrichment Program for the children of farm workers in the surrounding communities this summer at the old Pine Island Elementary School in the heart of Pine Island. Approximately 100 children, ranging in age from six to 16, were enrolled from five school districts: Warwick, Florida, Goshen, Chester, and Minisink.
Migrant farm workers in the area face the challenge of long work days during the summer and having no one to care for their children. Children under five years of age can attend the ABCD Head Start Program but for the older children, there is nothing available.
For the past 27 years, a summer program was run by the Mustard Seed Migrant Ministry, located in Goshen, NY under the leadership of Sister Pam and Sister Fran of the Divine Sisters of Compassion. The sisters have retired and this year they turned the program over to the Warwick Area Migrant Committee, under the direction of Katherine Brieger, MA, RD, CCE.
Brieger has been associated with Hudson River Health Care (HRHCare) for over 28 years and is currently the Chief of Patient Experience and Staff Development. HRHCare is a network of 28 federally qualified health centers located in ten counties of New York State, including the health center in Pine Island. Brieger is responsible for all programming, training and the evaluation of patient experience.
Within the space of a few months, Brieger was able to organize the school, solicit donations, and with the help of Warwick Valley Central School District Superintendent Dr. David Leach, secure the use of the old Pine Island Elementary School to house the program. As the Executive Director, Brieger hired Director Devin Silver and Assistant Director Sara Laaninen and coordinated several paid teachers and many, many willing volunteers.
The culmination of the Summer Program was a celebration held at the Pine Island School on Sun., Aug. 20. The children came together with their families and friends to show off their talents, including art work and writing. A group of older students danced the Bachata with their teacher, Esther Laaninen. As the dance progressed, audience members were pulled up and joined in the dancing.
Teacher Esther Laaninen explained that the school opened on Wed., Jul. 5 and ran through Fri., Aug. 18. Programs offered to the students included leadership workshops, writing workshops and science experiments. Local beekeeper Roger Moss came with outfits for the kids to wear and shared his vast knowledge with the children. There was also a field trip to the Village of Warwick to take the Warwick Historical Society walking tour, which included digging for artifacts, an activity the children really enjoyed. Other field trips included the Florida Library to use the 3D printer and a trip to the Sussex County Fair.
Through a generous donation from St. Stephen’s RC Church in Warwick, all of the children received backpacks and helmets at the end of the celebration. The children were very excited to show their parents and check out the contents of the backpacks.
Brieger has plans to continue the program next summer, making it even bigger and better. To make a donation for the program, send a check payable to WAMC to P.O. Box 607, Goshen, NY 10924 and write “Summer Enrichment Program” on the memo line.
This article originally appeared in the Warwick Valley Dispatch here.