Life Skills 101: Summer programs at Boys and Girls Club reflect needs of today's youths

Monday, June 12, 2006

Lynisha Thomas, 14, is in Nacoasha Davis' group at the Cape Girardeau Boys and Girls Club. So far Thomas has made a lot of new friends -- at least five -- and likes Davis because "She's sweet. She knows how to start fun." This is Thomas' first year at Boys and Girls Club summer camp and it's her choice whether she comes. She chooses to come because she likes it.

Programs are designed to set the youths up for success. Two programs aiming to promote character development and youth financial training, plus summer reading, are on this summer's agenda. Community leadership, a special teen program, will explore how leadership in Cape Girardeau operates. The program will allow youths to select their own volunteer project. The objective is to get teens fired up about what's going on in the community and help them find ways to get involved.

'Smart Moves'

Community leaders from the university, the United Way and entrepreneurs will talk to teens about business and the importance of being involved in the community. Trips to the university to learn about the importance of ACT scores and careers are planned.

Through a program funded by the United Way, the Boys and Girls Club offers "Smart Moves," a program for 6- to 15-year-olds teaching self-esteem, conflict resolution and decision-making skills.

The financial training program sponsored by the CITI Financial Group fills in the previous gap for teaching the younger set about finances. Children at the club range from 6 to 18 years old and, while in past years the older ones have learned about checkbooks, savings and accumulating assets, the lessons have broadened to include comparison shopping for the best value, awareness of charitable giving, comparing needs and wants, responsible spending and how advertising affects spending. Hands-on skills will be developed by scrutinizing everything from cereal boxes to newspaper advertisements, allowing campers to practice life skills to help them learn to be savvy consumers.

Boys and Girls Club director of programming Matt Anson said the five staff members who have been working with the youths since October promote continuity for the 53 youths in attendance at summer camp.

Making friends

Davis, a Boys and Girls Club program facilitator since last summer, said, "I feel that in today's society, kids need somebody who can talk to them that's young. They tell me anything and everything."

Davis is a teenage mother who plans to earn a degree in business so she can have an impact on even more lives. For now the relationship she's established with youths at the club offers the chance for building trust, conducive to positive relationships.

"If I can prevent them from making a mistake, I'll have made a difference," she said.

Davis' group activity opens with the small group of about eight making a list of their friends. Tablemates ask one another how to spell each others' names. Some have known each other before camp, others have not. There's a lot of erasing, but there are no mistakes when it comes to the next step of listing the ingredients for the recipe for friendship. Davis breaks the ice by offering, "My mother is my best friend because she is trustworthy." The campers rattle off ingredients for good friendship, like having a good attitude, a mild temper, being a good listener, being honest and respectful. Many of the character traits they name are attributed to their peers sharing the same table.

Not like school

Sitting around a conference table with pencils and paper might appear academic, but for the youths at the club attending summer camp, the difference is it's not boring. Nakema Ivy, who will be in Central Junior High School next semester, said that Davis makes it fun. Although Ivy goes to Boys and Girls Club off and on during the school year, this is her second summer at the club and she likes coming. She said, "I've gotten better at math and learned what to look for in friends."

There is a weekly fee for the Boys and Girls Club summer program, with a discount for additional children. The program, held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, ends July 28 with an awards ceremony July 29. A before care program beginning at 7:45 a.m. is available for an additional weekly fee per child. Call 335-7141 for more information.

cpagano@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 133

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