By LINDA M. LINONIS
The children giggle, sing, color, laugh, play, do their happy dances and rejoice in just being kids as the sound level during an activity indicates.
Fun is the joyful component, but there’s more going on.
About 40 children from 5 to 12 years old are engaged in math and language-arts classes as part of the King’s Kamp at the E.B. Family Life Center, 7 S. Garland Ave., which is sponsored by Elizabeth Missionary Baptist Church, 1210 Himrod Ave. The center is the former church on the East Side.
For the first time as part of a summer camp, a youth police academy was offered. It was funded by a grant from the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence.
LaDonna Walker, member of Elizabeth Baptist and its church administrator, is volunteer program director. She worked at Youngstown After-school Alliance. Walker has a master’s degree in organizational leadership and administration.
She takes the family life center’s mission, “Strengthening the Community One Family at a Time,” seriously. “This is about the total child,” she said of academic and recreational activities.
“King’s Kamp focuses on integrating a new generation into society. We want them to be aware and be successful as they always do their best,” Walker said.
“We work first and play later,” Walker said of the philosophy she follows. That’s why the camp values the educational component, she said. There are about seven adult volunteers who assist; four are from the Foster Grandparents Program. There also are six teen counselors. They all serve as tutors and mentors to help children improve their math and language- arts skills.
Walker said children take pre- and post-tests of the Ohio Academic Achievement Test during the camp. “We want to build on what they know,” she said of the practice tests. Language-arts sessions focus on vocabulary, writing and reading. She said the camp emphasizes the importance of education as a steppingstone to success.
The camp takes place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays. A typical day for campers includes daily devotion, art, choir, learning to mime, the math and language-arts sessions and recreation.
Children also receive breakfast and lunch, which are provided through a partnership with Neighborhood Ministries. Children also take field trips, including one to Waldameer Park & Water World in Erie, Pa.
Fourth- through seventh-graders participated in and graduated from the first youth police academy at a summer camp.
Delphine Baldwin-Casey, retired Youngstown police officer, led the program. Fifteen students began the academy, and 12 completed and received certificates.
Baldwin-Casey said the academy “makes a difference” for youths. “It’s vital that they learn there are consequences to their actions. There are laws of man and God,” she said. “Youth violence also is discussed so they understand its consequences.”
The retired police officer said she emphasizes that “making good choices” is the right path. For example, she said, if a friend you’re with is shoplifting, will you do it, too? “Choices do influence your life,” she said.
Baldwin-Casey said she tells students that making “bad” choices might land them in a juvenile facility or they may end up with a police record. “Both may affect their future,” she said.
Walker said the summer camp, in its second year, and the youth police academy were “responses to a need.” The camp would cost about $30,000 to run, but because of donations, grants and in-kind services, it is $4,300.
The cost is $25 per child for the eight-week program from July 7 through Aug. 29.
Walker said feedback from parents has been positive. They are thankful their children are in a safe and nurturing place. One mother told Walker that her daughter had hated math and now loves it.
She said the church camp has participants “from all sides of town.”
An after-school program from 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays from October to May will be offered. Call the church at 330-746-3877.
Churches interested in sponsoring a youth police academy should call Baldwin-Casey at 330-559-1927.