by Lisa Tome
During the school year, Janae Cox teaches special education at North East Elementary.
This summer, she's working at Camp Activate for the first time. She didn't need to learn her way around. The camp is held at North East Elementary.
"It's great. I've worked at a lot of camps and gone to camp my entire life. I like what this camp stands for," said Cox.
Camp Activate runs for five weeks and is free and offered to children exiting third grade to exiting fifth grade. The focal area is students from Title I (high percentage of free and reduced meals) schools.
Camp Activate is operated by YES (Youth Empowerment Source) and funded through the United Way, the Local Management Board, and private donations.
Camp Activate is primarily serving students from North East, Bay View, Holly Hall, Gilpin Manor, Thomson Estates, and Cecil Manor elementary schools. There is also a handful of students attending from Chesapeake City, Elk Neck and Cecilton elementary.
This year, there are 194 students enrolled in the camp. Limited bus transportation is provided to the two sites, North East Elementary and Thomson Estates Elementary. The camp also has 17 staff members, seven work for the school system.
Last week during the first week of camp, children were learning the human body and science. They were also practicing math facts. They were given facts sheets and had two minutes to complete as many as they could. That helped camp staff assess the needs.
There's also plenty of interaction with other campers. A circle exercise had the campers pushing an imaginary grocery cart. They then had to select an item from the grocery store and a physical movement to fetch that grocery item.
The camp began on June 26 and continues until July 26.
One of the campers, Madison, will attend fifth grade in September. She also attended Camp Activate last year. "I really like the science. I like learning about the body," she said.
Geniyah will attend fifth grade at Bay View this fall. She attended the camp last year. "I like the sports and I like learning about circulation," Geniyah said.
Toy also attended Camp Activate last year. He has plans to go to camp for five weeks and then visit family for the rest of the summer. "I like to learn during half the summer," Toy said.
According to Youth Empowerment Source executive director Beth Creek, the camp's focus is to prevent the summer slide. Summer slide is a learning loss for children who don't participate in educational activities during the summer months.
Another goal is to increase physical activity. There are daily sports and games at the camp. Those campers who are food insecure also receive two meals per day, breakfast and lunch, at camp.
Late in the week, camp coaches were packing weekend meals for campers to take home.
Children who live in high crime neighborhoods are also provided with a safe environment during the five weeks of camp.