Seattle Academy-South Park
Partnership Continues to Grow
Since the birth of our school, we have been part of communities larger than our own. In 1983, we partnered with Temple De Hirsch Sinai to use their space as our classrooms. We participated in the Black Lives Matter marches and joined the Cal Anderson Climate Strike, where our students spoke up and contributed to the conversation. And we created the Seattle Academy Family Association to foster relationships with parents who ask, “What can I do to help out?”
This same question we ask our students, our faculty, and our educational institution year in and year out. What can we do to contribute boldly as our mission statement challenges? What can we offer our neighbors to show that our interests, and our values, are larger than our campus doors?
We partnered with the South Park community in 2019 and despite unimaginable obstacles, both locally and nationally, that we confronted in 2021, we pushed forward in our commitment to provide programming for the youth of South Park and we continue to move forward in this vein.
Over the summer we communicated with the South Park Community Center and discovered that the only program they were able to offer, due to staffing and safety concerns related to Covid-19, was child care. It was a difficult year; there would be no recreational opportunities.
We were innovative and held steadfast in our commitment by delivering sports camps that the community wanted but the center did not have the resources to offer. We offered 4 full weeks of summer sports camps for youth ages 5-16 years old.
“Families were so thankful for what we did for the community and for the kids. This is what our school wants to do: to provide a bridge to support and uplift a community.” Craig Tomlinson, SAAS Faculty and Coach, Lead Organizer of Summer Camps at South Park
Craig Tomlinson ran these summer camps with Brad Evans — both former Sounders players and both of whom work at Seattle Academy.
Craig has been a SAAS faculty member since 2001, a coach, and first spearheaded camps at South Park in 2019 and continues to be the lead organizer.
This year, he brought Brad on board. Brad joined SAAS this year as an Upper School head coach of boys and girls soccer. Recently retired from professional soccer (in 2018) and still actively involved as a Sounders Brand Ambassador — Brad has remained committed to serving communities around Seattle.
“I saw the field, and that [South Park] was obviously an underserved community,” said Brad, “and I wanted to make an impact. How we do that is through sports and investing in infrastructure. And investing not just in infrastructure but in the community itself.”
Together they organized basketball, tennis, badminton, futsal and volleyball activities at the South Park Community Center, as well as soccer camps with student-athletes who were transported to and from Georgetown Playfield to ensure access to a safe and usable turf field.
There were also community-building activities like double dutch, kickball, tag games, relay races, and dribbling relays.
Brad Evans’ wife is a professional tennis instructor and she came to camp to provide a 45-minute presentation introducing the sport, fundamental skills, and led tennis activities.
A lot of PE games were incorporated into the camps, Craig explained. “We wanted to give the kids a global experience, things the kids never thought they would try, so kids could make a connection with other cultures through sports.”
We had an average of 75-100 kids participate each week over the 4-week period from July 6 - July 29. We printed 200 posters in English and 200 in Spanish that we then distributed to health centers, food marts, coffee shops, libraries, restaurants and community spaces around South Park. This helped foster awareness, and in doing so, participation numbers grew over the last couple weeks of camp.
Due to the challenges that continued to arise from the Covid-19 safety requirements, and in SAAS spirit, we thought innovatively as to how we could use our resources and neighborhood spaces to deliver an impactful summer program to the South Park community.
During a time when organized recreation was challenging, we met South Park where they were at, and in doing so alleviated barriers of transportation, child care, and nourishment.
Community centers are vital to the success of families in underserved communities. They provide free food, culture preservation, educational support, extracurricular activities and so much more that the community might not otherwise have access to.
Youth in low-income communities often rely on free lunches through their school and community center programs as their main source of nutrition. Knowing that our summer sports camps were the main offering for the South Park Community Center, we wanted to be part of that support.
We provided 40-60 lunches, 100 snacks, 100 juice boxes, and 48 bottles of water daily to campers.
“This was a lifesaver for the community.” Craig Tomlinson, South Park Summer Camp Lead Organizer.
Heading into camps this year, Craig’s ambition was to “create a community that allows everyone to feel like they belong, feel valued, and feel loved. Kids [at South Park Summer Camps] were awed by the love expressed.”
Craig received a text message from one of the camp parents that read: “Hi Coach Craig, my child came home and they said, for the first time, ‘I felt like I belonged to something.’”
This impact is transferable to each parent/guardian who needed a hand providing recreational activities during this time — and to each family who saw a measurable effect on morale.
“Camps were small enough that there was enough relationship-building to get to know kids. It was a very personal experience. I think kids appreciated that, and so did the parents.” Brad Evans, SAAS Coach, Summer Camps at South Park Organizer
Our SAAS community has learned that by volunteering our time and resources, we, in return, learn, grow, and enhance our experience as educators, student-athletes, and student mentors.
This is also an opportunity for SAAS students to learn from the South Park community and build a partnership that goes beyond sharing space.
We had 7 faculty members run programming for South Park Summer Camps, including 2 bilingual members. We had a total of 16 SAAS students participate as camp counselors, including 3 bilingual students, volunteering a total of 434 service hours combined.
A remarkable 57% of camp participants were bilingual. For only 17% of participants, English was their primary language.
“Towards the end of my first week at camp, I realized I am here to be with the kids, not coach them. But just be with them. My outlook on the camp completely changed.” Eneko Gerard, Camp Counselor and current freshman at SAAS
Senior Zoe Bishop, who plays on the Cardinals girls varsity soccer team, served as a camp counselor and said, “It was not just all soccer. There was also time to bond and get to know the community. Getting to know the kids my age down there and connecting with them was a great experience.”
We are committed to annually hosting summer camps at South Park and we are actively looking for ways to do more for the community during the school year. In our partnership with the City of Seattle and South Park Community Center, we will keep asking: “How can we meet the needs of the community, and what can we accomplish together?”
We hope this partnership model will inspire and galvanize others in our region to creatively solve problems and address community needs across the city and beyond.
If you have questions or would like to learn more about the project, please contact:
Blaire Piha Shainsky ’07, Major Gifts Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.