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Organizers Hope To Keep Momentum For "Camp Power"

Shakina Staples has been living in University Village for about a year. When she heard about Camp Power, she wanted to make sure her 6-year-old daughter Ari got involved. Turns out, there was a place for Shakina as well. She's been serving as a mentor with the program this summer and says her daughter is her personal cheerleader.

Credit Jenna Dooley / WNIJ
Shakina Staples's daughter Ari enjoys a summer day at Camp Power held at University Village in DeKalb

"She looks forward to coming every day. If I don't bring her to camp, she'll be like 'Mom, come on, it's time to go to camp, it's time for you to go to work!' She loves it," Staples said.

Shakina says she hopes to maintain a relationship with the kids who now recognize her around the complex.

"If this program didn't exist I would just be in the house just sitting and not doing anything for the summer because it's hard to get a job out here, " Staples said.

Instead, she found her calling and hopes to earn a degree in early childhood development. 

This is the first year for Camp Power, a collaboration between city, county, and university groups. It's held at University Village, a federally funded housing complex near Northern Illinois University.

Co-director Mary Hess, a youth specialist with the Ben Gordon Center,  says local police identified the area as prone to increased crime during the summer months.

"There are over 600 kids in this housing complex and during the summer," Hess said. "We were told there was a lack of supervision, and we wanted to target this area because of the density of the children living right here."

The camp is an answer to that concern for safety.

Lisa Cumings represents Live Healthy DeKalb County and co-leads Camp Power. Cumings says it gives children a chance to burn off energy and learn about eating right.

"Our goal is, with the nutrition lessons -- when we talk about different fruits and vegetables, and we show them the gardens and what we are growing -- that they will associate that with what they are eating and be able to tie that back and say, 'I tried kale and it tasted really good,'," Cumings said, " and so we want that to kind of all work together.

Camp Power runs through next week. Cumings says organizers don't want to lose their connection with the University Village children and hope to continue the camp in some form with activities and nutrition lessons during holiday breaks.