Video: Sun Journal visits Lewiston summer camp founded by Sleeper ’08

Lewiston Sun Journal reporter Bonnie Washuk visits Tree Street Youth, a bustling downtown summer camp program for underserved youngsters founded by Julia Sleeper ’08.

Sleeper, who has worked with Lewiston youth since graduation, planned the camp with Kim Sullivan ’13. Both felt a sense of urgency.

Over the winter, the Maine-based Libra Foundation announced that it would stop its major funding of vouchers for Lewiston children to attend summer camps and program. Sleeper tells Washuk that she was “having nightmares” last winter, worrying about underserved children losing an opportunity for educational summer fun. “We want them out, exercising. We want them busy, having a good time and making good choices.”

At Tree Street Youth, four Bates student interns lead activities and games that focus on literacy, recreation and art. Campers also learn good student habits like raising their hands for questions, respecting others and paying attention to counselors or teachers.

Sleeper’s budget is about $20,000, raised from donations and grants from Bates, Trinity Episcopal Church, the Maine Community Foundation and others. It’s located on Birch Street, in a building that once housed a preschool. (“Tree Street” comes from the neighborhood’s tree-named streets, like Birch, Ash and Walnut.)

Sleeper’s master’s thesis adviser, Betty Robinson, recalls Sleeper’s determination. “She said, ‘I found this great place. I just have to find the money. I have to get the people,’” Robinson tells Washuk. “And here it is. I’m so impressed.”

View story from the Sun Journal, July 17, 2011.