Hello Mudder, hello Fadder Camp Liberty provides spacious refuge for urban youth
by Mary Beth Cole Reporter staff writer
Aug 15, 2004 | 385 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Camp Liberty, nestled in a corner of Jersey City's Liberty State Park, has hosted children from Jersey City and surrounding areas for over 20 years. Originally a city-run day camp, the land was purchased in 1981 by the Educational Arts Team and has been run by the group ever since.Offering a program of various artistic and athletic disciplines, the camp currently enrolls hundreds of children - 95 percent of them from Jersey City, according to the camp's director, Carmine Tabone.

The camp is run in two-week sessions, four times per summer. Tuition is $185 per session for each child, but assistance is available to those in need. Programs like DYFS and the Urban League have sponsored children, and scholarships are also available to those who may not otherwise be able to afford the tuition price.

"We get a grant from the city to keep our cost down," Tabone said.

A team of trained counselors, approximately one for every 11 campers, keeps an eye on the children. The counselors, all at least 18 years old, are mainly from Jersey City and the surrounding area. Many are drama and education majors from nearby St. Peter's College and New Jersey City University, while others hold master's degrees from NYU. Still others are professional artists, teachers, and certified specialists in their respective fields.

Tabone, who is also the executive director of the Educational Arts Team, has been involved with Camp Liberty since the beginning. He feels that it is important to offer the children a wide variety of activities, so each can choose something that caters to his or her interests.

"One of the features of the camp is that we offer all these activities and kids choose what they want to do," said Tabone, noting that Camp Liberty offers programs in art, drama, and recreation for campers to participate in.

Campers range in age from 6 to 15, so activities are tailored to specific age groups.

"It's a recreational space, but it's also very cultural," he said.

Tabone added that the camp prides itself on its enrollment of children from various racial, economic, and cultural backgrounds.

"We're trying to get them to think outside of their own individual behavior to a wider, social behavior. They learn that it's a big world," Tabone said.

It's safe to say that the Camp Liberty kids will never be bored. The camp's spacious property encompasses a basketball court, a playground (donated by Saturn in 1994), an in-ground swimming pool, and a pavilion, under which are dozens of large tables perfect for lunchtime or art projects.

Maintenance is provided by the city, which cuts the grass and does the necessary painting, plumbing and electrical work.

"We're negotiating with the state right now to build a new building," said Tabone, who hopes to use the proposed building to host after-school and weekend programs during the school year.

A recent ceremony at Camp Liberty honored those who have contributed time and money to the program. Among the honorees were Councilman Jeremiah Healy, Councilman Peter Brennan, and a representative for Bob Hurley, director of the Department of Recreation. They were presented with certificates of recognition, designed by one of the children from the camp.
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