The Essex National Heritage Area, in partnership with the House of Seven Gables, became the first non-park to receive a $15,000 grant from the National Park Service as part of the America's Best Idea grant program.
The grant, inspired by the Ken Burns film "The National Parks: America's Best Idea," which originally premiered on PBS in September 2009, was awarded earlier this month to 48 national parks. The Essex National Heritage Area intends to use the funds for a program called "Making the Caribbean Connection."
The six-week program sponsored by the House of Seven Gables - aimed at Latino middle school children - was slated to begin this week, but the start has been delayed to an undetermined date in the upcoming weeks.
"They were hoping to have about 12 kids, and they only got half the number on the first day," said Essex National Heritage Commission Spokesperson Deb Payson. "The Salem public schools ran a program that we weren't expecting kind of at the same time...I think they're using this week to figure it out."
The goal of the program, according to Payson, is to engage underserved Latino youths in discovering the untold stories of Salem and the Caribbean. The children will explore the interactions - both past and present - between the historic sites in Salem and the islands of the Caribbean, where many of their families emigrated from.
Based at the House of Seven Gables, the program tentatively includes trips to the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, Peabody Essex Museum and the Salem Public Library, and the children will most likely create a final project detailing what they've learned to be displayed at the Salem Visitors' Center.
Due to the delay, details of the program are still being worked out, but the idea is to run Monday through Friday for a few hours per day.
"They're in middle school, so they're not working yet, so it gives them hopefully something fun and also interesting and educational to do during the summer," Payson said.
The House of Seven Gables, located just up the road from historic Derby Wharf and the Salem Waterfront, was originally built as a residence in 1668. It is the oldest surviving 17th century wooden mansion in New England, and home to thousands of artifacts, pieces of art, historic literature, and photographs.
For more information on educational programming, a history of the house and information on tours, visit the House of Seven Gables official website or the National Park Service's Salem Maritime National Historic Site webpage.