Summer enrichment programs bring activities to area children

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 14, 2008


Barbara Hill

DCS community education director

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The Community Education office is gearing up for its summer enrichment camps. Tell me a little about the program.

These camps are sponsored by Community Education and the 21st Century program. We have been doing this for six or seven years, but since we got our 21st Century grant, we have a much more expanded program. This is about our fifth year to have a really &8220;souped up&8221; program.

What are some of the activities planned at the two schools, Westside Elementary and U.S. Jones?

It goes from 8 a.m. to noon each day for weeks in June. The art program has a lot of acrylics, and this year all the pictures we do will be displayed at the hospital. We&8217;ll have an open house for it, and (the pictures) will stay up all summer. That is the first time we&8217;ve been able to do the art (camp), and we don&8217;t have art in the schools during the year.

Who is the teacher for the art camp?

We have Becky Holley, who teaches first grade at Westside and an art major. She has several assistants, like Bill Barley who teaches art at the high school. We have to limit that (camp) to 50. It&8217;s also our most costly program, but it&8217;s because the art supplies are more expensive.

What are some of the other one-week activities students can sign up for?

We will do Hansel and Gretel on the third week of June as part of Missoula Children&8217;s Theater. It&8217;s a musical drama and it&8217;s going to be at Demopolis High School. We will have two performances on Friday, one at 3 p.m. and one at 6 p.m. We will usually have between 50-60 students that participate. Usually that is grades K-8; sometimes we have a few high school students, too.

The first week, at Westside, we&8217;re having a &8220;diva day camp&8221; for girls. They&8217;ll make some sandals and make some jewelry, then they&8217;ll fix their hair and we&8217;re going to take them somewhere to get their fingernails done. This is the first year we&8217;ve done this, and one of the girls who worked in our camp last year &8230; told us about it. We&8217;ve got several people that are going to be helping us with it, and teenagers too.

The last week we&8217;ll have a field trip. The (Army) Corps of Engineers will take us on a boat ride up the Tombigbee River. They also do some water safety with us before we go. Then we&8217;re going to make pizza at Pizza Hut. Then we&8217;re going on a tour to see the Bakery in Livingston and also a tour of the University of West Alabama.

How does your office plan these activities?

We work on it all the time. We always have something in the back of our minds about how we&8217;re going to do it. The whole plan was &8230; I was trying to bring in things that people might have to go out of town to get. Like the music, art and drama &045; these are things people might have to go to Tuscaloosa to do. I wanted to bring activities like that to Demopolis.

How many children usually participate over the whole course of the program?

The drama and art camps usually get 50-60 children. The other camps may have about 25. So I would 250-275 students.

In addition to the &8220;girls diva day camp,&8221; are there any other new things this year in the summer enrichment program?

For the music camp we have not done it with voice lessons, so that is a new camp. We&8217;re doing basketball camp a little differently than we have in the past. We like to give a lot of awards.

How important do you think summer activities are for children?

I&8217;m a former guidance counselor and I really have a problem with people not helping children have a good concept of themselves. It happens a lot through these kinds of things, other activities out of school. Like our plays, we don&8217;t try to get the best students, we have every student that wants to be involved.

You mentioned some of the 21st Century grant funds will be ending this year and next. Do you plan on continuing to have programs like this?

Community Education started in 1995, and back then we didn&8217;t have much money. With the 21st Century grant and others, we have been able to save money so that we can continue our programs. We have been able to supplement some of the costs and now have about $218,000 saved, known as sustainability funds, that can be used at either Westside or U.S. Jones. We are also looking to apply for other grants, such as the excellence grant that is about $50,000. And that money can be used for Community Education or extended day.

If you are interested in signing up for the summer enrichment program, application forms can be picked up at Westside Elementary, U.S. Jones Elementary and the Demopolis Board of Education office. Forms can also be obtained by calling the Community Education office at 334-289-3159. Deadline for sign-up is May 15.