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Youth Scholarship Program experiences busy summer

By Staff | Jul 29, 2015

Assistant Program Director Jessi Zeigler and Program Director Christie Swiersz stand in the children’s room at F.I.S.H. of SANCAP. MEGHAN McCOY

Twenty-two more children than last year are reaping the benefits of the Youth Scholarship Program this year, providing them with the opportunity to engage in one of the many summer camps held on the island.

Program Director Christine Swiersz said last year they helped 31 children, compared to 53 this year.

“There has been a lot of growth,” she said, adding that the program is great because it helps in making a difference for families needing to stay on budget.

Swiersz said for the past eight years F.I.S.H. of SANCAP has offered a Youth Scholarship Program that assists parents in affording high quality care for their children while they continue to work full-time.

Assistant Program Director Jessi Ziegler said it’s great that they are able to offer opportunities for parents to maintain their full-time working schedules, preventing any scheduling issues during the summer months.

Either Swiersz or Zeigler meet with the parent(s) to determine if there is an economic need for their family. The in-take meeting consists of going through such submitted documentation as an application, three months of banking and saving statements, two years of tax returns and the last three pay stubs for each parent.

Swiersz said they analyze the income based on those documents to determine if they are eligible for the program.

The scholarship can be used at the Sanibel Recreation Center, BIG ARTS and The Children’s Education Center for the Islands. Swiersz said their agency pays 50 percent of the summer school camp fees, and the parent pays the remaining half.

Ziegler said families also have the opportunity to apply for assistance through the Sanibel Recreation Center.

“It becomes cost effective for families in need,” Swiersz said.

Zeigler said with food, gas and rent costs continuing to rise, the scholarship program offers opportunities for kids who may not have otherwise been able to attend camp and have a safe space while their parents are working.

Parents can continue to seek assistance from the F.I.S.H. of SANCAP Youth Scholarship Program. Swiersz said they work with parents from the beginning of the summer to the very end.

In addition to offering the Youth Scholarship Program during the summer months, she said the program also applies to Fun Days, days off for either holiday or teacher duty days, during the school year.

“We can help to do that,” Swiersz said of offering assistance to families with financial needs.

She said they also partner with the Sanibel Sea School to provide children with the opportunity to join their classmates on an educational field trip.

F.I.S.H. of SANCAP also offers a backpack program year round, which is accomplished through F.I.S.H. volunteers packing a bag full of food for families with an economic need. The bag is filled with enough healthy nutritional meals that will feed the family from Friday evening until Monday morning.

Ziegler said the bag is filled with items kids can cook without using the stove. Often times recipes are placed in the bag to give the families an option of preparing something new with such items as protein, veggies and fruits.