The Rising Stars summer program offered by the Cambodian Mutual Aid Association of Great Lowell offers young people a free summer sports and leadership program for six weeks.
Our program is aimed at young people and families who do not have the financial resources for summer programs. We focus on developing youth leadership skills through a variety of activities. Sports, teams, educational workshops, guest speakers and field trips are just some of the activities and tools we use to help children develop their skills and grow personally.
This summer COVID-19 has greatly affected our program in terms of numbers and regular procedures. The safety of the youth participating in our program was in our hands and we took great precautions to ensure their safety. Thanks to the amazing workers at Lowell Public Schools head office and the school principal, we were able to run our Rising Stars program at Stoklosa Middle School.
This year we served 35 students from all districts of the Greater Lowell area. This is a huge drop from the usual 100+ students who attended in previous years. Nonetheless, we were really happy to reopen this program and show that this virus cannot stop us from pursuing our goals!
By taking all necessary precautions, including frequent hand washing, wearing masks, wiping and sanitizing surfaces, and ensuring that all meals are individually wrapped and served in clean environments, we have were able to engage in various activities. We were also able to make field trips and organize workshops with members of the community. Lowell National Historic Park hosted two workshops with us; they showed students how a water turbine works and did art projects such as making stamps.
Khmer art and culture are always included in our program. We taught enrichment classes in Khmer daily which included dance, language and music to students interested in the arts. We were able to do this with the help of Indras Artistic Creations.
Our first field trip was to the famous Boott Mills in Lowell to see the turbines that contributed to the power and energy of the mills. Our second trip was to the Salem Witch Museum in Salem to learn more about the historic Salem Witch Trials and how our perception of witches has changed over time, both in real life and in entertainment, like movies and TV shows.
Our third trip was to Great Brook Farm in Carlisle where our students learned that a farm is not just a place to grow crops; a farm can also be a place to raise animals. Our students also learned how milk was processed and ate ice cream made from the milk of the cows on the farm.
Finally, we partnered with CMAA’s Monorom program to bring kids from both programs to Salisbury Beach for a late summer celebration.
The end of the summer program was bittersweet for staff and students. Just hearing the students leaving in their parents’ car shouting “I can’t wait to see you next year” made us smile and showed us that we did our best under these circumstances. . CMAA thanks everyone who has contributed to our program this year; Please join us again as a student, staff or volunteer next year!