“Every child should go to camp,” says Dana Hughes, recreation supervisor at the Carrboro Recreation and Parks Department.
Hughes is one of three supervisors in charge of the department’s summer camp program, and she says sign-ups are in full swing for this summer’s camps.
“Sign-ups opened in January,” Hughes explains. “But we’ve started seeing more and more people sign up for the camps lately.”
The Carrboro Recreation and Parks Department offers more than 20 different half-day camps for children between ages 3 and 17. Programs range from sports and outdoor adventure, to drama and eco-friendly art classes.
Last summer, 376 children from the Carrboro area attended the department’s camps. Hughes says she expects to see a similar turnout this year.
“Our evaluations were really good last year,” Hughes says. “The parents had great feedback, and we adapted our plans accordingly.”
Hughes and her fellow supervisors are introducing five new camp programs this year. Hughes says she’s particularly excited about a program she will be directing called “Goin’ Green with Artful Antics.”
“It’s all about using recycled materials for arts and crafts,” she explains. “It’ll teach the children and their parents what all can be done with recycled materials.”
The camps are held at Carrboro parks and elementary schools.
Hughes says that the department employs 10 counselors for the summer camp program, and she is looking to fill those positions. Applications have been open for two weeks and will remain open until the positions are full.
“Experience is the first thing we look for,” Hughes says. “We also look for creativity and communication and people skills.”
She says most of the applicants for the program are teachers, teacher’s assistants and college students.
There are also volunteer positions for those interested in working with the program but were not able to work as counselors.
“We actually interview our volunteers, and I decide if our camps are a good fit for them,” Hughes says. “We treat them just like our counselors.”
She says local high school students mostly use the volunteer program.
Ylonda-Renee Thompson, a single mother of two, says she would love to send her children to the summer camp programs but hasn’t been able to because of transportation and financial concerns.
“Transportation is a really big problem for us,” Thompson says. “I work during the day and can’t take them to camp. We tried using the bus line last year, but a lot of the time, the camps aren’t on the bus lines.”
Thompson, 42, says she has tried to find outside assistance to help send her children to camp. She says she applied for a grant last year so her son could go to a camp that wasn’t through the Carrboro Recreation and Parks Department.
“I make too much to qualify for a lot of the camps’ assistance programs,” Thompson says. “But not enough to pay for the whole camp myself.”
Carrboro Recreation and Parks Department Director Anita Jones-McNair says her office offers a financial assistance program for families who live in Orange County.
The assistance program is available for families with financial concerns who wish to participate in the classes and programs offered by the department.
“We’ve got two levels,” Jones-McNair says. “You either pay nothing, or you pay 25 percent of the cost based on the money that comes into your household.”
The program allows each member of accepted families to participate in six of the department’s programs each year. Programs include the summer camp programs and other programs in the department.
“I think it’s been helpful for the past couple of years if a parent has been laid off,” she says. “It’s helped a lot of people bridge that gap.”
Thompson says she is not familiar with the assistance program, but plans on looking into it. She says even if she is approved for the program, transportation will still likely be an issue for her family.
Applications for the financial assistance program are open all year and must be reapplied for each June.
A learning opportunity
Jones-McNair echoed Hughes’ call that every child should attend camp.
“The camps provide so much opportunity,” Jones-McNair says. “There’s a lot of learning involved. When they go back to school, it’s a smoother transition. If you keep them energized, keep them active, keep them learning, when they go back to school, it’s a smoother transition.
“It’s fun structure, and it’s important.”
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