Camp offers exposure, encouragement, empowerment
Some youngsters have the tendency to become lazy in the summer, but some have the opportunity to participate in programs that promote cognitive growth and physical fitness.
That opportunity is what the Elba Parks and Recreation Department hopes to provide with Camp E.X.C.E.L.
Excel stands for extraordinary, challenging, exciting learning. The camp is built on this creed and the belief that all people need to develop and fulfill their potential and discover their passions.
The camp is conducted Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. Activities and topics include: character education; participation in the Elba Public Library Program "Ready, Set, Read"; hometown heroes- seeing success; board games; organized play; movies; life skills; dream boards; goal setting; etiquette; dress for success; budgeting and savings; career exploration; sporting games such as basketball, kickball, archery, golf, dance, and cheer/gymnastics; arts and crafts; and gardening.
The youngsters in the camp are most excited about basketball, archery, art, seeing old friends, and meeting new people. But they will also be learning life lessons in the midst of their summer fun.
The camp employs older teens to help mold and develop the younger participants, giving them a chance to develop their own leadership and work experience.
Camp director Beverly Hamilton said she has high hopes about what they will get out of their experience. She said, "I hope the first thing is that they have fun. I believe this will be an experience for them that expands their scope of life, and they will experience things that they haven't quite had the opportunity to do before."
She uses the dance aspect of the camp as an example. In July, the camp will welcome a dance instructor who owns a dance studio. This will give camp participants access to a professional teacher for their dance class. "They might not ordinarily in their everyday life be able to go to dance class, but for one week they will get that experience."
Hamilton added, "I want them to leave here a better person and to know how to be a better person, and to experience new and exciting things that they haven't experienced before. That will let them know that we are a community that cares about them.”
The goal, she said, is to "get the youth to a place where they can be economically and socially successful, which will benefit Elba as a whole."
Hamilton explained that many of the campers live in rural areas and many have not traveled outside of the region. Exposure to new things like archery, golf, hockey, and soccer will be a new experience for many.
The primary components of the camp that they hope will empower their participating youth are exposure, encouragement, and empowerment.
The camp sets to first expose their participants to different ideas and also to bring them out of their comfort zone. Hamilton said, "It's not all about your environment and what you see. We need to cultivate their interests."
The next step is encouragement. The camp leaders intend to encourage camp participants to have a 'can do' mindset so that they believe in themselves and know they can achieve their goals.
The final step is empowerment. This means giving the participants the opportunity to do those things they have found a passion for.
Hamilton said, "Those three things (exposure, encouragement, and empowerment) will help any individual, not just the youth at this camp."