DeKalb community leaders led a summer camp this year focusing on keeping children active and safe. WNIJ’s N’Jema McIntyre has a follow-up on what some of the kids have been up to.
The hall of Westminster Presbyterian Church is full of young children. There are tables full of ornament decorating materials, glue, glitter, fake snow and markers. Many of these kids live in nearby University Village, a multi-family housing complex. They participate in an after-school academic program here throughout the year. But today's activity is led by some familiar faces for these children: coordinators of the summer Camp Power program which many took part in.
For Latrece Rader, the sounds of giggling are welcomed. The mother of two takes comfort knowing her kids are learning while playing.
"To me, this is great for the kids. A lot of kids, a lot of parents in my financial situation, we don't have a place for our kids to go after school but the kids want to do after school programs," Rader said. "This came up at a very good time for me. And it's also good for the kids because a lot of kids can come and be constructive and get help with homework. Because a lot of parents work and some parents are just too busy to take up time with their children so they can come here to get the enrichment that they need."
Rader says she's happy the children get to interact with each other and helps them stay focused. She says this after-school program is a big step.
"I have noticed some kids from University Village that really don't interact with many children. Some are the only child in the house. They came in they were shy, they didn't want their parents to leave them, but now when they come in just like you've seen and they don't even notice their parents when they're gone. Socially, yes it helps the kids, and academically I believe some kids are doing better, they get help with their homework, where at home they may not get as much attention with their homework as they do here."
Academic Program Teaches Life Skills
The angel, you could say, behind the after-school program is Brenda Donley. Participant Demarcus says, she keeps him in line.
"I just like, like she's smart and she really cares about kids, and we learn our manners and stuff."
Donley doesn't desire being in the limelight. She is the director of Good Life Foundation, and coordinates the after-school program. She's glad that many of the kids from Camp Power participate in the year-round learning opportunities.
"At our church I founded and established the New Hope Academy and at that academy we did some of the same things, academic resources and enrichment activities, which included fitness, nutrition and wellness."
Community leaders and organizers saw something special in Donley's ability to help the children. They wanted her experience and dedication to the children to help foster enrichment and education.
"My pastor, Pastor Joe Mitchell, Mary Hess and the Police Chief, they wanted to do something wonderful for the residents of DeKalb and especially the children for the summer and they wanted to do it with health, and wellness and fitness activities," Donley said. "So my pastor asked me, would I consider bringing an academic component to Camp Power and of course I said yes. And we named it Power Academy because we were collaborating with Camp Power and that's what happened with the summer."
The coordinators of Camp Power wanted to stay connected to the children throughout the year. The holidays offer a good chance to keep that relationship.
"At Camp Power they love our children so they make sure they continue their engagement with our children. They've done a wonderful job keeping just a positive connection with them. So they've done Halloween and now for the Christmas season they want to just share with them so they're decorating ornaments."
The big picture here is to help the children and that's exactly what Brenda Donley does:
"Because all it really takes is continued collaborations, we have so many gifts and talents in all of the people you see around here. The adults, they bring their skills, their hobbies and they have the desire to share with our children. So it helps them to give and it also helps our children to grow."
Future of Camp Power
Collaborations have helped the program to sustain and keep connections with the children. That's something co-coordinator Mary Hess expects for the future of Camp Power.
"We want to sustain it and we'll be looking at ways to that financially, and with man power, so that we can offer it again next year at University Village. We came over at Halloween and did an activity with them, and now this, and we'll try to do something in the spring too just to keep those relationships going."
To keep the momentum going with the help of the nutrition component of Camp Power, Lisa Cumings spends time in the area schools with most of the participants.
"We know who our community partners were that really stepped up to help with Camp Power, so I think now with this year, having them be part of the planning process and really getting more people involved, just making it bigger and stronger and keeping it going."
Newcomer Nancy Prange says teaching the children the importance of community helps make them successful.
"We think there is a big value in us coming to them but also that when they have the opportunity to reach out to their neighbors that that will make it kind of come full circle.
For the kids, today's activity is about fun, but for the adults involved it's about keeping the connections.