Boys & Girls Club gearing up for summer camp fun and learning

ST. STEPHEN – It’s almost time to start thinking about summer camp programs for kids, and the Boys & Girls Club of Charlotte County is all set and raring to go. They are offering a few programs for kids from Kindergarten through age 12 that not only give them a chance to have loads of summer fun, but also inspire and encourage learning. Executive Director Jessica Smith said there will even be field trips again this year, something they couldn’t due last year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“We are operating here at our home base location for summer camp, right at the club,” said Smith. “We have our summer camp program happening, and we are actually able to do field trips this year. We rent the Anglophone South District school buses. We weren’t able to do that last year because of COVID. This year we’ll be able to reintroduce that. We’re excited about that.”

Summer camp isn’t summer camp without swimming, and Smith said that many of the field trips are to beaches in Saint John, where there are lifeguards on duty at all times. Some days they go bowling. Other days, they go to the theatre to see a movie. The cost for all of these field trips is included in the regular rate for the summer camp program.

“We cover that cost,” said Smith. “Our families still just pay their regular rate. With the free programs, those kids don’t pay anything either. That’s all provided through funding. Even with our paid programs, That’s where Goldrush comes into help. We can do all these fun activities with the kids, but parents aren’t expected to pay additional fees.”

The Boys & Girls Club is licensed through the Department of Education, and they offer a “play-based learning strategy”. Smith said there is a combination of educational activities and play-based activities, and there is always something for everyone. In addition to the regular summer camp program, they also offer the Summer Slide program. This is to help reduce the effects of the summer slide, so kids going back to school in the fall don’t slide behind. It will allow them to retain what they have learned throughout the previous school year, and often their skills have increased by the end of this summer program.

The Summer Slide program is a partnership with Milltown Elementary School and Blacks Harbour Elementary School. This is a free program, and the kids who take part are selected by the school. Educators from the Anglophone South School District visit in the mornings to teach the kids, focusing on numeracy and literacy. In the mornings, they do school-related work, and the afternoons are reserved for fun activities.

“That’s where our staff come in and do the summer camp stuff in the afternoons,” said Smith. “They also go on a field trip once a week. That program is 100 percent free. The school selects the children that they know probably need to have that extra support through the summer. They do pre and post-testing for those camps, which is really good.”

Smith said the teachers work hard to ensure that the kids get a variety of activities, including outdoor water activities, sports, crafts, and science experiments. Various activities are also set up in the classrooms, and kids will get to choose what they want to do. The teachers look for ways to reach every kid to ensure that they get to do things they want to do, and continue to learn while they are doing these activities.

This is a free program, and the schools work hard throughout the year to get the funding they need to be able to offer it to the kids who need it the most. The Boys & Girls Club also contributes part of the funding for this program. Much of this funding comes from proceeds of the Goldrush campaign. It also helps to create the funding needed to ensure that parents never have to pay anything extra for their kids to be able to go on field trips.

There is one more program happening this summer, and it is taking place at the Youth Centre on Milltown Boulevard. The Leaders in Training program is for kids ages 13 through 18, and it gives them valuable skills they will need when they are ready to enter the workforce. Three days a week, the kids go out and do volunteer work in the community. Once a week, a guest speaker is brought it. This could be anyone from a bank representative offering tips about how to open a bank account to a cook talking about meal prep and budgeting, and a whole lot more.

“It’s basically a skill program that we created,” said Smith. “It’s unique to our club specifically. Everybody leaves with a resume. They also get a $200 gift card at the end of that program, and that’s 100 percent free program as well. The kids do job shadowing. They’re gaining skills. They’re volunteering. They do mock interviews and stuff like that. They’re leaving that program with some things to put on their resumes. They’re meeting people in the community. It’s a really cool program.”

Smith was the program director when she developed the Leaders in Training program. In the beginning, they had to really work to find kids who were interested in doing it. Now, it is filled up within minutes of the start of online registration. This program is limited to 15 kids. Registration has not yet begun, so if you are interested or know someone who is, please follow the Youth Center Facebook page for more information about online registration.