Summer might be months away, but preparations for camp are in full swing. For parents who are just beginning to think about summer activities, Blueprint4SummerSTL makes searching for camps a one-stop shop.

Maxine Clark, chief executive officer of the Clark-Fox Family Foundation and founder of Build-A-Bear Workshop, created Blueprint4SummerSTL in 2014. Clark knew the educational value of summer programs and wanted to make opportunities accessible to all communities, especially those that are under-resourced. She works with kids throughout the St. Louis area and has noticed kids who attended summer camp tend to thrive in school.

“We want to connect all families with opportunities,” Clark says. “In St. Louis County, they have camp fairs all the time. It really matches the segregation of St. Louis. We wanted to make a camp fair online, so everyone has access.”

Blueprint4SummerSTL is the most comprehensive database of summer programming in the St. Louis area. They currently have over 6,000 program opportunities for the 2017 summer, and this number continues to increase as operators are still registering their camps.

The database is easy to navigate on a tablet or a desktop computer, and users can select the criteria to narrow down the 6,000 opportunities for the ones that work best for their family.

Allie Cicotte, the senior project manager, who is a former Spanish teacher, says, “We spent a lot of time thinking about the different program attributes that parents need to make a decision about summer programming: how far away from home it is, how much it costs, and whether or not there is before and after care.”

Clark and Cicotte agree that the feedback they’ve received from camp providers keeps them motivated.

“Camps tell us they’ve become more diverse, and that they’ve been able to provide some scholarship opportunities,” Clark says.

With analytic data from their site, they have been able to identify where their users are located and the types of camps for which they are searching. Program partners, such as COCA, have used this information to expand their programs into areas of higher need.

“I’m really motivated by some of the progress we’ve seen from our camp operators,” Cicotte says, adding: “Where there might not have been an opportunity for a child to explore an artistic interest before, now in 2017, they’ll be able to do that.”

Clark found that there are many opportunities for high school students, so she created Blueprint4Summer College Prep. “There are a ton of college campuses across the country that have residential programs so we launched the college prep version,” Clark says.

“It’s a great way for students to see if they like a certain college,” Clark says. “We know one girl from St. Louis who attended a summer program at Princeton University, and now she’s a student there.”

“I feel confident that more kids are enrolling in summer programs as a result of our efforts,” Cicotte says. “Whether that’s because they find a perfect camp or that it’s because they were awarded a scholarship. Whatever the reason, more kids are able to go to camp, and that keeps me motivated.”

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