I was among 60 youngsters from the New Brunswick and Franklin Township (in New Jersey) school systems to take part in the Rutgers Educational Action Program (REAP) in the summer of 1964.
It was a seven-week summer program for seventh and eighth grade students on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick with Dr. Laurence Hopp as director.
REAP was an experiment in working with educationally disadvantaged children run by the state university with federal funds. Johnson & Johnson also provided funding.
The program was designed to develop skills and career goals for inner city youth through art in order to break the cycle of poverty that ruled their communities.
“We try to give the REAP students a sense of belonging and to satisfy their deep need for achievement,” Hopp said. “We must prove to these children that they are both accepted and valued. While we may sometimes have to reject their behavior, we never reject them.”
During REAP’s summer program a staff of 10 teachers, seven teacher aides or research assistants, a social worker, and two psychologists worked with the students.
Field trips, swimming, activity groups led by community volunteers, movies and no-holds-barred discussions of civil rights, sex or the Vietnam situation all were part of REAP.
The 60 students who were in the program showed measurable increases in grade level expectancies, reading levels and intelligence quotients.
I tested my early journalism skills by working for the program’s newspaper, REAPorter.
REAP expanded to 120 students in 1965.
The program received positive feedback and subsequent funding from the federal government, via the newly created Upward Bound program.
This enabled REAP to expand its reach to 13 cities in New Jersey including Newark, Carteret, Lakewood and Camden and to continue until 1970.