REAL Impact: How Abby Douglas Helped Kids Find Their Team

This summer, Abby Douglas, a senior sociology and religion concentrator from Oswego, N.Y., was an operations intern at a camp called REAL Kids created by DREAM — a public charter school network and youth development organization in East Harlem and the South Bronx. The organization was originally founded 30 years ago when volunteers created a baseball field for youth in East Harlem. Now, the organization has grown into a network of public charter schools that provides free, holistic and unique academic experiences for children. 

“Statistics prove that children from these areas of low-income families lose about one-third of what they learned the previous year over the summer, so we work to keep up their reading retention and make sure they’re staying up to pace. Especially now because everything’s been online, it’s more imperative than ever to make sure these kids are doing what they need to be doing in order to be successful,” Douglas said.

Everything at the summer program is designed to teach students about how to be active, involved team members. 

“We did something that we called Clubhouse, which is learning how to be a good person as well as a good teammate. They learn how to be a teammate to themselves, to others and to the world,” she explained. 

This emphasis on team-building continues into their afternoon activity of baseball, staying true to the foundation on which the organization was built. 

“This teaches them how to be a teammate outside of the academic realm,” Douglas said. 

Douglas’ role at the camp was mostly administrative and behind the scenes, although she did often interact with students.

“I did a lot of planning, I did a lot of one-on-one intervention with students who were having bigger issues and more of the problematic students,” she said. 

Prior to this summer, Douglas knew she wanted to work for a nonprofit, but did not know which sector appealed to her the most. Her summer experience at DREAM allowed her to realize that she wants to work in educational consulting in order to focus on how organizations can maximize their impact and the number of people they are helping.

“I learned a lot about how to work with a lot of different people from different areas and how to immerse myself into a community. Especially as a white woman, I really learned how to take a step back and educate myself about what was going on around me. And I learned to intervene in a way that wasn’t overbearing and burdening, in a way that wasn’t white washing. That was a big thing that I learned and tried to become conscious of,” she said. 

REAL Kids uses the term “big feelings” to describe misbehaving in the classroom. One 7-year-old student who had a tendency to express “big feelings” and struggled academically gave Douglas a hug on the last day of camp, telling her that he had the best summer ever. This made her summer worth it. 

We need more people like Douglas who devote their time to ensuring that all children receive a rich, character-building education. That 7-year-old boy will undoubtedly remember the impact Douglas had on him and will go out into the world striving to make people feel the way Douglas made him feel.