Sequester forces city to revamp youth summer program
In past years, the Department of Human Services’ Warwick Youth Advisor & Prevention Task Force and Warwick Police have partnered with the National Guard to sponsor a summer camp for at-risk youths. Due to the powerful sequester, however, that needed to change.
Because of cuts stemming from the sequester, the National Guard pulled out of the program for this upcoming summer, prompting Patty St. Amant, director of human services, and her team to revamp the program.
“We needed to recreate the wheel, which was a good thing,” said St. Amant. “It was time.”
Losing the help of the National Guard, and the use of their equipment, allowed St. Amant to redesign the program to be a leadership-based experience for junior high-aged kids, now called the Warwick Youth Leadership Camp.
Instead of the program having an association with military-like training, St. Amant believes this will be viewed as a leadership workshop to build the confidence in these children as they prepare to enter high school.
“I am happy that this is now a leadership camp,” said St. Amant in a phone interview last week.
The camp, which is open to Warwick students between the ages of 11 and 14, will run three times in the month of July: July 16-19, July 23-26 and July 30-Aug. 2. Each session has a maximum of 30 participants.
The new four-day camp will allow participants to connect with professionals in the community to learn skills they may not otherwise. The camp is hosted at the Buttonwoods Community Center and runs from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
On the first day of the camp, St. Amant explained that students would participate in team-building exercises and other get-to-know-you activities. This will allow the kids to meet new people and make new friends.
On the second day, Toll Gate teacher Jim Kennedy will be brought in to provide training for the students in Rachel’s Challenge.
Rachel’s Challenge is a movement inspired by the writings and message of Rachel Joy Scott, the first victim of the Columbine High School shootings. She believed one act of kindness would create a chain reaction of kindness. Rachel’s Challenge, started by Scott’s family shortly after her death, encourages schools and other communities to promote kindness through assemblies and student organizations across the country.
Kennedy took the fall 2012 semester off from teaching to train and be a speaker for Rachel’s Challenge. He was instrumental in bringing the program to Toll Gate High School, in partnership with St. Amant.
St. Amant said bringing in Kennedy and Rachel’s Challenge to this summer program would promote anti-bullying throughout Warwick schools. Kennedy, St. Amant and others have been working to bring Rachel’s Challenge to other Warwick schools and this can serve as a first step.
St. Amant said that teachers from junior high schools and high schools in the area would be attending the Rachel’s Challenge training days during this summer program to potentially bring the program to their schools as well.
On the third day of the camp, participants will travel to the University of Rhode Island campus to participate in the North Woods Challenge Course, a series of physical activities designed to build leadership and communication skills.
The course is facilitated by a Project Adventure, Inc-trained URI staff member or student and features 14 low challenge elements, three high challenge elements and a 50-foot climbing tower.
Since the course is located in the woods north of URI’s Compass School campus, the campers will get the chance to experience nature. The secluded location also allows for the group to focus on the task at hand.
According to URI’s website, the North Woods Challenge Course allows participants to learn communication strategies, problem solving, leadership development and teamwork.
Finally, on the last day of camp, students will travel to New England Tech’s campus for a lesson from Warwick detectives in crime scene investigation at the facilities’ newest forensics lab.
In addition to these hands-on experiences, the program will feature law enforcement and substance abuse prevention presentations.
St. Amant is excited for the prospect of this new program, but said the camp would “maintain a lot of parts for the past.”
She also pointed out that students could benefit from this program in a multitude of ways.
“Their confidence is going to be up, their level of communication will go up, their empowerment,” said St. Amant. “And it’s just going to be plain old fun.”
The application for the camp can be found on the newly redesigned Warwick Police website, www.warwickpd.org, under Public Outreach. Applications are due by June 21. The cost of each session is $30.