OCCHA enriches multicultural youth with summer camp

By Bruce Walton



The Organizacion Civica y Cultural Hispana Americana started its monthlong summer program this week for the children of the city’s multicultural community.

A usual day at the camp starts with a greeting and breakfast, then craft activities, outdoor activities and a field trip every week to places such as the OH WOW! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology downtown.

The camp also has guests come in challenge and educate the children.

A student from Ohio State University recently gave a class to teach kids about the healthiest choices to eat and an art student from the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center taught them about arts-and-craft projects.

Thirty-six children are registered in the camp’s program, ranging from age 5 to 11. The camp is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday until July 20.

Because children are still used to the scheduling of the school year, Shanice-Rae Figueroa, program specialist for the camp, said she wants to instill that structure so they are prepared when they return to school.

The biggest lessons the children learn from the camp is friendship, team-building, reading and crafts, she said.

“We want to have fun, we want to get involved in the community, have the kids come and have a great time,” she said. “And to keep doing it.”

OCCHA began in 1972, set up in a former doctor’s office at the corner of Fruit Street and Himrod Avenue on Youngstown’s East Side, to provide services to the growing Hispanic community in the Mahoning Valley.

In 2001, the social-services organization moved to 3660 Shirley Road on the South Side. Elba Navarro and her husband, Shorty, a car-dealership owner and philanthropist, donated the building to OCCHA. The organization started out to meet the specific needs of the area’s Hispanics, but it has since grown to involve the Mahoning Valley’s multicultural community.

“Our mission here at OCCHA is to strive to improve the quality of life of all the Hispanic and multicultural people that we serve in the community,” said Mary Lou Reyes, OCCHA executive director.

Reyes said the biggest challenge for OCCHA has been funding, and she hopes the organization will receive more donations. To donate, call 330-781-1808 or visit the website at occhaohio.org.

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