The Cambridge Empowerment Center, which opened in 2003, is justifiably proud of its service to the community in the heart of the Pine Street historic district.
But new Executive Director Andrew Shannon invites the community to "take a look at us now." Building on the organization's rich history, the center brings fresh summer programming, offering activities and events designed to "enrich, educate and energize the young, as well as the young at heart," according to Shannon.
An eight-week multi-faceted Summer Learning Program will be capped off with Remembering King: A Step Show and Drumline Talent Showcase street celebration, free and open to the community, from 4 to 7 p.m. Aug. 17.
The event will feature the 55-member award-winning New Generation Marching Band, precision stepping from local youth showcasing their talent, and area church gospel choirs. City officials and dignitaries will be on hand, area health organizations will offer free screenings, and a volunteer fire department ambulance will be available for viewing.
The Aug. 17 date, Shannon explained, honors Dr. Martin Luther King's ongoing legacy and inspiration, significantly occurring 12 days before the 59th anniversary of the historic March on Washington where Dr. King delivered his famous 'I Have a Dream' speech.
Enrollment is already underway for the program, taking place Tuesdays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., from July 5 through Aug. 19, for youngsters grades K through five. The total registration cost is $65, with scholarships available to those needing financial assistance.
The comprehensive educational curriculum includes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities along with computer-guided IXL math and language lessons, which guide students to follow up with extra help or added enrichment, depending on personal progress, according to Programming Director Terri Yorkman.
Each Wednesday, the children will swim at the Robbins Family YMCA. Four Friday field trips are planned to Killens Pond State Park and Water Park in Felton, Delaware, Wilmington's Brandywine Zoo, the Delaware State Fair in Harrington, and the Harriet Tubman State Park with Cabin Fever afterward, Yorkman added.
Breakfast, lunch and snacks are provided daily.
Meaningful performing arts, such as stepping and drumming, will serve as the summer's overriding focus, Shannon said. While helping develop positive skills of discipline and precision, they're rooted in African American history and culture, he explained.
Long practiced by fraternities and sororities, stepping extends back to the days of slavery. After a South Carolina slave uprising, when drumming was outlawed, the custom of transforming one's body into a virtual instrument began, evolving into an art form now performed around the world.
On a recent Saturday, Shannon and the Empowerment Center brought 40 people to attend a live performance of Drumfolk by Step Afrika! at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.
Throughout his career working with young people, Shannon has created opportunities to not only view, but perform what they'd learned, at such venues as the Apollo Theater and a Department of Energy's Black History Month event.
Shannon plans to add similar teaching and training, showing youngsters that, "you should always let your grasp exceed your reach," he said.
"What we're trying to do is connect the teaching that goes on inside the building with the world outside," he noted, citing a recent student visit to attend a tribute to Tuskegee Airmen held aboard an authentic World War II PT Boat in Cambridge.
"It's one thing to learn about them in a book or by seeing the Red Tails movie, but being present and meeting a local Tuskegee Airman's family members, that's a transformative experience," Shannon continued.
For more information about the Summer Enrichment Program and the Community Celebration, call the center at 410-901-1397.