Kids who attend summer camp at the Boys & Girls Club of the Piedmont in Statesville get to try different careers on for size.
The day camp, which lasts all summer, offers rotations in the culinary arts, STEM, dance, physical fitness and – new this year – photography.
There’s a different theme every summer, and this year’s is “Exploring Today’s World.” Every week, campers study a different country and its culture. That’s in addition to exploring career options.
“Some kids would love to play in the gym every day of camp,” said NaKayla Griffin, director of operations for the Boys & Girls Club of the Piedmont. “We allow plenty of time for that, but we also want to show them what else is out there.”
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Since 2009, the Observer Summer Camp Fund has raised over $1.5 million and sent more than 3,000 children from the area to day and sleepaway camps. This summer, more than 500 kids will attend 33 camps. Five kids are headed to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Piedmont camp on Observer scholarships.
Many of the campers participate in Boys & Girls Club during the school year, although camp is open to any rising first through rising 12th grader.
Some older campers would likely be at home without the camp that runs from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. for eight weeks. Devices – including cell phones, tablets, laptops and gaming devices – are prohibited for kids from kindergarten through fifth grade. Older kids can access them only during free periods.
Clarissa Flowers Young, Boys & Girls Club of the Piedmont’s director of development, said the fact that the camp welcomes teens is one of its distinguishing features.
“Teens who aren’t working during the summer need something to do,” she said. “They need a safe place to go with positive role models. We give them that place – and help them explore what they might want to do after graduation.”
That includes visiting colleges. Staffers take high schoolers to area campuses to give them a taste of college life. Literally. They eat a meal in the school cafeteria. They also keep a journal about their experience and make notes about what they can do to prepare for college.
Griffin recalls one camper who had never considered college.
No one in her family had been, so it wasn’t something they ever discussed. “But once we took the group to Catawba College and she was able to see herself there, she was able to get a scholarship and attend college.”
“We have a real heart for our children here,” Young said. The fees are kept low – $50 a week for non-members and $40 a week for club members – so more people can have access. A healthy breakfast and lunch are included in the tuition.
Campers just think of camp as fun.
They swim, play sports, learn about gardening, cooking and nutrition. They don’t notice they’re also being schooled. This camp teaches science, engineering, math and a full arts curriculum, too. Every day from 12:30 until 1 p.m., it’s D.E.A.R. time. That stands for Drop Everything and Read.
Camp, Young said, picks up where school leaves off. “We bridge the gap between summer and the start of the school year,” she said. “Our motto is: When school’s out, clubs are in.”