Boys and Girls Club plans for fun, learning

Sunday, May 22, 2005
Chimeca DeBerry showed Micah Treadwell, 5, where to start coloring on the thank-you cards the children were making at the Boys and Girls Club in Cape Girardeau. Also working on the cards were, center, Patrick Buck Jr., 6, and his brother Jerry Buck, 8, on the right.

Summer camp brings up images of swimming, camping and -- learning?

NaTika Rowles, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Cape Girardeau, said the club is planning its third summer camp to be fun and to reinforce what children learned in school this past year, as well as to prepare them for the fall semester.

The camp runs from June 1 to July 29 at the center on Broadway.

"What we're trying to do is create some kind of fun environment and still have kids learn," Rowles said. "They don't know they're learning, but I know they're learning."

Rowles expects about 100 young people from kindergarten through high school -- but mostly at the third- to fifth-grade levels -- to participate in various learning, arts and recreational activities at age-appropriate levels.

"If we start with a 6-year-old, and have a pro-active approach, we will have a greater impact," Rowles said.

Club Tech is one example of such a program. It starts with the younger students, teaching them basics of using a computer, and works its way up to older students, who could learn how to make a PowerPoint presentation or create their own video.

This summer, Rowles and the staff will be using programs provided by the Boys and Girls Club of America's national headquarters in Atlanta to go along with other activities.

Among those programs are activities that promote good dental hygiene and healthy eating, as well as a conservation-centered program that builds math and science skills by teaching how people interact with their environment.

All national programs are sponsored by major corporations, she said, including the financial planning corporation Charles Schwaab, which offers a program that teaches students about savings, financial planning, writing checks and balancing a checkbook -- and value that goes beyond material items. One of last year's activities, Rowles said, involved the children being given an imaginary $200 and asked to list attributes that were important to them, and then to "bid" on those attributes -- honesty, friendship, family, among others.

"They discovered they can't put $10 to everything," Rowles said. "Some things are worth more than others."

To sports coordinator Rickey Smith, the value of the Boys and Girls Club to a community is beyond measure. Smith said he grew up in Sebring, Fla., attending a similar program, so he knows its value firsthand. He came to Cape Girardeau on a football scholarship to Southeast Missouri State University, and began volunteering two years ago with the Boys and Girls Club. He was hired this past October while still a student at Southeast. He said he believes deeply in the Boys and Girls Club.

"It is not only outreach to the community, but it gives a safe environment for the unfortunate kids," Smith said. "That in itself is priceless."

Smith said he not only coaches various sports at the club, but he works with the young men reinforcing what they learn at home or in school, and what some may not have the opportunity to learn. He calls it teaching the fundamentals of being a young man.

Smith said he will be among the adults at summer camp, coaching sports and leading youngsters in other activities.

Every Wednesday the children will go on field trips and alternating Fridays will be a theme day that incorporates what they have learned earlier in the week.

On the other Fridays, the students will be readying for the end-of-the-summer "A-kid-amy" Award program, where every child wins in one category or another, and gets to walk on a red carpet just like the Academy Awards.

Rowles said that ongoing programs from the Boys and Girls Club's after-school program will be incorporated into the summer program: karate, dance, computer lab, self-defense for women, and such mentoring programs as Smart Girls and Passport to Manhood that encourage youngsters to develop their self-esteem and healthy relationships, and Smart Moves, which teaches young people to resist alcohol, tobacco, drugs and premature sexual activity.

The after-school program, which is wrapping up following the end of the school year, gives students a safe, supervised place to drop in after classes and get help with their homework, tutoring and recreation.

Rowles said that about 20 children at a time come to the after-school program on any given day, but on an annual basis, the club reaches about 300 youngsters.

The local Boys and Girls Club is funded through the United Way. Membership is open to any interested young person at annual dues of $5. The summer program is $45 ($5 for each additional child in a family) which includes lunch, a T-shirt, and tickets for the parents to the "A-Kid-amy Awards" program at the end of the camp. Parents who come to the open house at the headquarters at 232 Broadway between 4 and 6 p.m. Thursday will get $10 off the registration fee.

Boys and Girls Club of America began in Hartford, Conn., in 1860 as a way to keep unoccupied boys off the street. In 1906 the Federated Boys Club of Boston joined with 53 affiliated clubs and Boys Club of America was born. It became Boys and Girls Club in 1990, although it always accommodated girls, Rowles said.

Today 3,700 Boys and Girls Clubs are active in 50 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and on domestic and foreign military basis.

The local group, which opened in 2000, is among several chosen to acknowledge the upcoming centennial a year early, Rowles said. A celebration of 100 years is slated for 2006.

lredeffer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160

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