Meet Takeeda Dennis, an EMT firefighter for the City of Baltimore, and her daughter Nikayla, a rising 1st grade scholar.
What attracted you to the BellXcel program?
I thought BellXcel would be a good program for Nikayla to attend so she wouldn’t lose what she learned over the school year. I don’t have a problem with summer camps. Fun is important. But, I wanted an enrichment program where she could also get the education to maintain her skills and work on anything she needs to improve. That’s what pulled me in.”
How would you describe Nikayla?
Nikayla’s such a sweet soul. She is so outgoing. She loves people and loves to learn. She is just beautiful from the inside out!
How does BellXcel extend learning beyond the summer program?
Nikayla loves to read and so do I. We go to the library, and sometimes when I’m in a store, I’ll say, “No Nikayla, no toys this time, books this time.” I love the fact that BellXcel gives us books during the program. We add them to her collection at home. Not only where the students enriched by the books, they can take them home. It keeps their minds moving.
Has the summer program helped her with her social-emotional skills?
It most definitely has. Nikayla has a 17-year old brother, so with such a big age difference, she feels like an only child sometimes. Being around children in BellXcel, she’s like ‘Yes. I can see other kids my age! She’s with children her own age who have things in common. Now, her social skills are off the chart.
The Academic Instructors at BellXcel are certified school teachers. Do you feel this enhances the quality of the program?
I really do appreciate that they are teachers. It's almost like BellXcel wants the highest quality. They want quality educators. It’s almost like we're making sure we're not leaving this glass half-empty or half-full. We just want to fill it all the way up! When you get quality teachers that are qualified in the field, it makes you feel so much better. It makes you know that someone is truly educating your children and getting them on the right path.
How important is to provide a safe environment in the summer for children to thrive?
As an EMT firefighter, safety is my top concern. It is unfortunate that some of our children live in neighborhoods where they can't ride their bikes up and down the street or they can't just run around and burn some of that energy, even for a couple of hours a day. It feels good to know that Nikayla and all the scholars are learning in an environment where staff keep them safe.
How important is it to have enrichment in the program?
That also attracted me to BellXcel, the fact that they offer summer enrichment. It’s important for children to learn hands-on and be exposed to different enrichment. You are getting everything in this program – academics, enrichment, meals, and fun in a safe environment.