During this summer, I got an opportunity to work with Auburn-Gresham GOLD Camp, a summer camp dedicated to the math and literacy. The young woman who hired me, Sheenita Robinson, is as strong as the neighborhoods she serves in and as humble as apple pie. While working with the camp, I not only learned about the staff, but I learned and witnessed up-close and personal how much Robinson is hands on with her family and with her community. I got a chance to interview the Chicago native about her life, her achievements, and her way up to success.
1. Tell us about yourself and maybe tell us where you’re from.
I am the only child from the South Side of Chicago. I am a mother, wife, educator, and businesswoman
2. During your childhood, when did you first take an interest in writing and education? Were there any specific times or people who influenced your decision?
As a kid, I would play teacher (laughs), and at an early age, that’s when I knew this was something I was passionate about. I also had an experience where my 8th-grade teacher allowed me to spend the night at her house, and I guess she saw something in me, but it did teach me that teachers are everywhere. We still communicate to this day, and it’s something I’ll always remember because it around the same time I lost my mother.
3. Doing some research on you, I found out you have not only a Bachelor’s degree, but you also hold a Master’s degree. Could you tell us where did you go to school, what areas do you hold your degrees in and what made you take on those majors?
I went to college for a year then I had a child, but soon after I got my Bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University in Youth Development and I got my Master’s at UIC in Education. As of now, I am waiting to get my Doctorate.
4. Since earning your degrees, where has your education taken you? How do you think your college experience has shaped you for the work you do today?
At one time, I thought I was going to be in the classroom, but I went on another path. I started out as a Parent Coordinator at GAGDC (Great Auburn Gresham Development Corporation), leading up to the position I have now which is the ISU Civic and Cultural Engagement Coordinator. Now, I see that education isn’t only in the classroom, but going out and educating the community counts as well.
5. Currently, you work with the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation and you are the Program Manager of the AG GOLD Camp. What is the GOLD Camp? How long has the camp been running? What is the purpose of the camp?
The GOLD Camp is a 4-week intensive camp, which focuses on literacy and math for kindergarteners to third graders. It has been running for 4 years and the purpose of the camp is to stabilize urban city reading and math scores and to expose urban culture to kids who often wouldn’t get that chance.
6. What are some of the challenges you have faced (past or present) with the students or the camp itself?
Some of our challenges include financing, getting parent engagement, and trying to show the benefit of parent involvement. It is difficult to show parents that kids are a product of who they are.
7. In your years with the GOLD Camp, what are some improvements you have seen in the students as far as education, behavior, confidence, or anything else you can think of?
In the years of GOLD Camp, I’ve witnessed a stronger partnership with ISU, I’ve seen growth in the kids and their academics, and it’s always good to meet new connections through the GOLD Camp.
8. What are some of your goals for the GOLD Camp?
We would love to have a camp at every school, and eventually, have a camp for sixth through 8th graders.
9. Now on the note of kids, you wrote a fantastic children’s book entitled, Sneaky Little K. What inspired you to write this book, and what was your motivation to get the book out?
The book was inspired by my daughter, Sanaa. When I was homeschooling her, she had a hard time with sound phonetics, so we would do little plays with words like “knot”. Eventually, I thought, “well if she’s having a problem with this than I know other kids are having the same problem as well”. So thank you Sanaa (laughs)
10. Reading the book, I already got a sense that the book was written for an educational purpose. What do you hope children get from the book?
My first book was Are You There God? By Judy Blume. At the time, I felt there was no representation of myself. So I wrote the book in hopes that girls have someone to connect with in a book, and to let black girls know you can beautiful and intelligent.
11. Recently you were out selling and promoting your book at the Soulful Chicago Book Fair on the South Side of Chicago, along with many other children’s book authors (which I’ve never seen before). As you may know, a lot of schools on the south side are being closed down. Many parents are concerned about the education their children are receiving. As an author, how important is it to you to reach readers and parents through books and literacy? Do you believe that black authors should encourage their readers, younger or older, to look for opportunities to advance their literacy and expand their reading habits?
It is important to reach readers and parents through books and literacy because the South Side is often looked at as uneducated, so to say we can put together something like a book fair, it says we can put our minds together and elevate ourselves. I do believe authors should encourage their readers to look for opportunities to expand their reading habits and literacy ideas because it encourages others to not only read and write, but to be visionaries and entrepreneurs.
12. With the discussion of school closing and schools being underfunded does it light a fire under you, as an author, to use your skills to teach children?
Yes, I do. I have homeschooled my kids before and with the school closings, I feel as though I might have to return to that. These school closings and the underfunding of schools puts a hindrance on what education is really for.
13. Between the GOLD Camp and your book, where do you see yourself in the fields of literacy and education?
I see myself starting my own literacy camp, and helping children advance in the field of art whether it be becoming an author, photographer, painter, etc.
14. If you can leave us with any encouraging words, or make any last comments what would they be? Where can people buy your book or find out about the GOLD Camp? (use this given any contact info you have and any upcoming events).
I want to say this, kids can’t be what they can’t see!
You can buy my book at www.sneakylittlek.com (which is also my blog), or buy it on Amazon (make sure you leave a review). Follow me on Instagram (@adventureswkell) and Twitter (@Adventureswkelly).
To find out more about the GOLD Camp, you can “like” the Facebook page (AG GOLD) or go to www.gagdc.org.