by Lisa Tome
Tammy Pryor knows how to capture the attention of young children.
Pryor, Maryland Extension's Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program Coordinator, assigned four children to be "germs" and asked them to tag other children and make them sick. That's how she demonstrates the importance of hand washing prior to handling food.
Pryor was out at the Rising Sun unit of the Boys and Girls Clubs last week teaching nutrition and demonstrating how to make healthy smoothies. But before the cooking, she showed off the Food Plate (replacement for the former Food Pyramid) and asked children to identify what goes in each plate section.
"Healthy stuff can taste good," said Pryor. She helped the children learn about the importance of eating the proper amount of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy each day.
The nutrition class is just one of many events that have taken place at the club this summer.
Unit Director Denise Thomas said that 66 children, ages 6-13, have enrolled in the Summer Fun Club. Average attendance is about 50 children per day. In addition to the paid staff, 11 Leaders-In-Training (LITs) have volunteered to work at the club this summer. Thomas explained the "hiring process" for the volunteers.
"They fill out an application, have an interview, and orientations. They are not paid but if they are not going to be here, they call out. They earn community service hours and a reward," said Thomas.
The teen volunteers assist the staff in planning and leading games. Capture the Flag, Dodgeball, and Four Square are popular this year. The volunteers also help with programming. An emphasis at the club this summer has been participating in the Cecil County Public Library Summer Reading program. The Bookmobile visits the club weekly. Time each day is set aside for reading.
The club has also had trips this year. Conowingo Pool, Herr's, and Fort McHenry have been destinations.
Tim Szekerczes, 17, is an LIT. He joined Boys and Girls Club as a third grader and now is part of the club leadership. "It's nice to see old faces and make young friends. It's good to see them enjoy the summer," said Szekerczes. "This gives me something to do. It's better than staying home."
Brandon Brooks, 14, is also an LIT. He joined the club at age five and returned for his second year as an LIT. "I like giving back. We make sure the kids don't kill each other or get hurt," said Brooks.