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‘It’s summer school with fun’

For parents looking to keep their children busy this summer, there is an alternative to allowing them to spend all day on the couch with a bag of chips and eyes glued on a television screen.

The Claude C. Brown YMCA is two weeks into its summer camp, a program that combines school skills and a dash of fun, and hopes to prepare campers for school’s renewal in the spring.

“The goal here for the Claude C. Brown YMCA is to have a summer camp that is surrounded by enrichment, teach the kids motivational skills and to build self esteem,” said Yasmin McKinney, camp director for both the Brown and Walker-Johnson branches of the Selma-Dallas County YMCA. “What I wanted to do is kind of assist the summer school programs with reading and math enrichment so the kids won’t forget over the summer but to give them some skills that will be helpful when they start school back up in the fall. It’s summer school with fun.”

Several campers acknowledged that though the camp’s learning part gives it a school feel, it is beneficial in the long run.

“We read a lot and we do a lot of math,” said Christian Strong, 7. “It’s like being back in school a little bit. I’m just glad to be out of school.”

For Amyrreah Eaton, an 11-year-old Revolutionary War buff, she is enjoying the camp for the access to technology and lessons in etiquette it provides.

“I like to learn about computers and work on computers,” she said. “I love the camp staff. In the gym when we play kickball, sometimes people will get upset. They’ll just tell them to cool off a while.”

The camp runs from 7 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday-Friday. It costs $90, but through the YMCA Strong Kids campaign, the fee is reduced to $30 for many participants.

Several activities are crammed into the seven hours campers spend at the Y. They include 90 minutes of reading and math, arts and crafts, basketball, dance, computer games, board games, snacks, lunch, kickball, swimming at the Walker-Johnson branch (two days a week), field trips to the Selma-Dallas County Library and area museums, and a weekly trip to Camp Grist.

It sounds like a lot to cram in, but McKinney feels it is necessary to keep the campers occupied, focused and, most important, in a positive environment.

“The critical issues the kids face in this community with poverty, drugs, alcohol, gangs, it’s very important,” said McKinney. “It’s at top level for us that we develop programs that will help these children become productive members of society.”

In the end, that is what the camp is about. It’s also the reason counselors Justin Foster and Teri Bishop got involved.

“Our goal is to build the character of the kids, develop friendship skills,” said Foster, who just finished his sophomore year at Auburn. “[We talk] to people about manners and etiquette.”

This is Bishop’s fifth summer camp, and she will work with the YMCA full-time in the fall. She got involved with the Y while pursuing her social work degree at Alabama A&M.

“It’s just a really good place for a lot of the kids to come and interact with their peers,” said Bishop. “They learn something during the summer and have a lot of fun.”