As the final drummings “Nuestro Viaje” faded from the Puerto Rican Afro Carribean Cultural Center Hall on the 17th of August our official summer camp season came to an end. Cuyantes, throughout the days via our circle practice, brought to us by our mentor Sayra Pinto, shared their successes and struggles, cried, lifted up, honored new friendships and celebrated one another. Throughout the artistic art gallery showcase, they sold their art and one Cuyante left with $110.00 for the art work that they produced. In the Theater component, they performed like professionals, spoken word, improv, Bomba y Plena dancing, and brought down the roof with a hip hop routine to remember. They took with them a piece of Cuyo, and they left a piece of themselves. And with all those pieces left behind Nueva Esperanza didn’t feel quite so empty.
My staff stated that the day after our program has ended is the saddest day, but in the quiet, I found contentment instead of loneliness and a sense of completeness and fulfillment instead of emptiness. It felt like the end of a day of hard work alongside good friends; a day of sweat and laughter ending in a job well done. In the six weeks of summer program this year, we served 32 Cuyantes (ages 7 – 13 years old). In that number, there were 18 youth new to Cuyo Social Justice Summer Program. The Cuyo community is certainly expanding and as we bring in new Cuyantes we expand our area of reach expands as well this year we welcomed Cuyantes from Springfield, Chicopee, Greenfield (31 Miles Away) and one Cuyante who came up for the summer from Maryland. This summer we also distributed $17,580 in tuition scholarships. 88% of our Cuyantes attend the Holyoke Public School and receive free or reduced lunch.
Contributions come in many forms, and we are lucky enough to have had over 15 instructors/facilitator volunteers throughout the summer who gave their time, money and talents to help camp do more than we could with our staff alone. Volunteers worked in providing all of the breakfast for the camp, maintenance, trained staff, taught art, dance, history of people power movements, social justice 101, mural painting, silkscreening, weaving, sowing, canoeing, art gallery curating, canvass painting, singing, bucket drumming, hip hop dancing, food and environmental justice, theater, poetry and many other artistic mediums.
We took our youth on amazing field trips thanks to Marcott Ford, Smith Art Galleries & Botanical Gardens, the Massachusetts Fine Arts Museum, Holyoke Rows, Mt. Tom, the Dinosaur foot tracts, the Lion King at the Bushnell Theater, and the Museum of Contemporary Modern Art, all allowed our youth to access and view art that due to institutional barriers would otherwise have been non accessible. Few other organizations have the volunteer presence that we are lucky enough to have here at Cuyo Social Justice Program at Nueva Esperanza Inc., and our volunteers truly allow us to flourish in a way that we would not without them.
I would not be able to summarize the summer without mentioning the amazing contributions of our summer camp staff. We had 5 incredible summer staff members, many of whom were new in leadership positions. Though many of our staff were asked to step into roles for the first time, they proved to be excellent teachers and mentors to junior Cuyo staff, and one or two Cuyo Councilor in Trainings.
One focus that we will have during the coming years is to retain older Cuyantes through the time that they are able to apply as staff. To do this we have created the Councilor in Training Program for those campers ages 14 and up. This year is was my last year as Director of Cuyo, next year I will be hiring a dynamic Cuyo Director to take Cuyo to new heights! I will still lead as El Behique, and lead circle process and teach a class of either poetry or my new found love for making and producing Vejiante Masks. Nueva Esperanza is all about the creation of leaders and we will do that by empowering a new Director to take charge and lead this entire process.
We also are launching a fall Saturday pilot Cuyo Social Justice Program for the 2018-2019 School Year it will have all of the amazing art and culture and add a book club and Khan Academy component to expand and support school learning. You’ll see some of these new programs in the 2019 program brochure when it comes out, so be sure to take a look!
Until next year Cuyantes and Families!
~Nelson Rafael Roman,
Cuyo Social Justice Director &
Executive Director of Nueva Esperanza Inc.