UB's 'Wiggle Your Power' Summer Camp to Teach Children Civic Engagement

Release Date: April 8, 2010

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A book written by Mara Huber and her daughter, Elena, is the basis of a UB summer camp to encourage children to "wiggle" their power and give back to the community.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo's Center for Educational Collaboration (CEC) will bring its message of civic engagement and personal empowerment to elementary children through a summer camp that mixes interactive activities with UB's mission of making a difference in the world.

At the heart of the summer camp program is "Wiggle Your Power," a children's book written by Mara Huber, founding director of UB's CEC, and her 8-year-old daughter, Elena. The book is illustrated and enhanced by Sarah Miyashiro of AmeriCorps VISTA, who will serve as camp coordinator.

"My Mom says I can change the world, but I can't even change a light bulb," starts the first page of the book. "She's helping to build a school in Africa, but what can I do? NOTHING."

The "Wiggle Your Power" summer camp will teach the students that each of them has special gifts and then suggest ways of using these gifts to give back something to their community. The "wiggling" is learning how to call on that personal power, first by recognizing the special talents each of us have, and then by learning how to use those talents to change other people's lives.

"We all have the power to amazing, wonderful things," the Hubers' book states. "But it takes practice. You start small by wiggling, but one you get the hang of it, you can accomplish anything."

Huber, who organized a fact-finding trip last year to explore collaboration between UB and a community in rural Tanzania, said the Wiggle Your Power summer camp is intended to take advantage of the same model UB embraces with its educational partnerships: Allow people to contribute to their respective communities, whether they be a world away in Africa or as nearby as their own neighborhood or family.

"When I look around, I am constantly struck by the amazing resources and talents that we have within our community," she says. "Not just in terms of the faculty and students at the university, but also the youth within our area schools. If we can help these students find their power through community service and engagement, then everyone will benefit from their efforts."

The summer camp, which runs July 12-16, will be held in Allen Hall on UB's South Campus. It is organized around three goals: helping children discover their gifts, listening to the needs of the community and teaching the children how to "wiggle" their power and give back to the community.

Katie Biggie, program manager for civic pathways in the CEC, stresses the importance of community awareness in preparing students for success.

"It's exciting to watch children make a difference in their communities," says Biggie. "Be it through fundraising, studying differences between cultures or learning about the challenges in their communities, they realize their power to make positive change. The Wiggle Your Power summer camp represents an important opportunity to immerse area youth in the world of civic engagement by focusing on needs and resources within the Buffalo community."

The five-day summer camp will include activities designed to show participants how to reflect upon and share what makes each of us special and what gifts we can offer to the community. In addition, participants will visit as many as three community agencies to learn about what services they provide; engage in a half day of community service; choose an organization to receive a charitable contribution; and reflect on what they have learned at a closing reception.

"The main contribution that our center can make is sharing the model we have developed -- which is simplified in the 'Wiggle Your Power' book -- and helping people work on the process so that they can make their own contributions to their respective communities," says Huber. "The Buffalo and Tanzania projects represent two great opportunities, but there are an infinite number of possibilities."

The CEC was created by UB in 2007 to serve as the hub for UB's PreK-16 outreach and to direct the university's partnership with the Buffalo Public School System.

"Writing Wiggle Your Power together with my daughter Elena was a wonderful experience that brought us closer together," says Huber. "As parents we all try to instill in our children fundamental principles that are at the core of who we are. The idea that power comes from helping others to be their best is a difficult concept to grasp.

"I knew Elena had it when she started catching herself 'wiggling' her power. I am looking forward to sharing this concept with area children through this exciting camp."

Students interested in the summer camp are encouraged to sign up soon. Registration fee is $125, which includes all books and materials and all expenses for field trips and the closing reception. A portion of each child's registration fee -- $25 -- will be used as the group's "seed money" to benefit a local organization; participants will decide collectively how to spend their money to "wiggle their power" in the community. They will present their contribution and the reasons they chose this route at the closing reception.

To register, contact Sarah Miyashiro at sarahmiy@buffalo.edu, 716-829-3099 or visit http://www.buffalo.edu/pk16.

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