Nearly 200 kids are participating in the Youth Summer Program in Plant City.
The Plant City Recreation & Parks Department’s annual Youth Summer Program is underway with nearly 200 kids enrolled.
The program is comprised of two separate sites, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Recreation Center and the Planteen Recreation Center, and kids take part in arts and crafts, sports, games and a science based activity called discover.
“I think it’s important for kids to have the opportunity to be kids,” Maggie Morona, the recreation supervisor for the Planteen Recreation Center, said. “There’s classes and all these goals they have to attain and that’s great. But it’s summertime, we want them to have the chance to play and to develop friendships.”
Morona has 137 kids registered with 16 paid staff and 11 volunteers. Morona said the kids enjoy being able to do a variety of activities everyday and that the discover area is a big hit among campers.
JaVae Ingraham, the recreation coordinator at the MLK Recreation Center, agrees and says the kids have made bottle rockets, a worm garden and even slime with the help of the City Water Resource Department, which provided the idea and materials to create the gooey substance.
“The kids love it,” Ingraham said. “We have cooking classes in the discover class, we made homemade
ice-cream and they also liked the paper mache we did in the arts and crafts classes.”
While on site, campers at both locations are taught a variety of sports, games, crafts and they take part in educational experiments like learning about the ecosystem via worm gardens or having a hands-on lesson on compost.
“The kids were taught about compost and what can be composted and then one day the bucket wasn’t out and the kids came after me for it,” Morona said. “It was amazing to see 8-year-old kids saying ‘Where’s the compost bin?’ and knowing something they had wasn’t supposed to be thrown away.”
Joey Williams, 18, was a volunteer for two summers before being upgraded to paid staff this year for the Planteen program. He said the best part of the summer so far has been being able to teach the kids how to play chess with the new chess sets, which were purchased by a grant Morona obtained from Pizza Hut earlier in the year.
Youth who are too old to be campers can volunteer through the summer program, which Morona said helps develop future leaders. She said the kids who are too old to attend camp but are too young to go out and get a job are given the opportunity to develop marketable skills through leadership roles at the camp.
When kids arrive at either site they are sorted into groups and are rotated all day through different activities.
MLK Recreation Center, which has 60 children in attendance and 11 volunteers, is especially proud of its discover and sports section, where kids are taught the rules behind a variety of sports like volleyball and soccer.
“We have a lot of fun and it's very cost-effective,” Ingraham said. “We’re very friendly over here and teach kids a lot.”
The program has both sites taking students on five field trips throughout the summer to Fun Spot, Adventure Island, 2Infinity, Plant City Family Bowl and Legoland.
The MLK Recreation Center site is $275 for the nine-week program for kids ages 5 through 13. The Planteen Recreation Center is $375 for kids age 6 through 15 to join its nine-week program, though Morona said she’s willing to prorate it for half price, $187.50, since the summer is halfway over and there are only two field trips left.
“Camp is an opportunity for kids that maybe aren’t the smartest kids or the kid that’s not the jock or the kid who doesn’t like to stand up in the front of the room and recite things off to other people, camp is an opportunity for those kids to come out and possibly find something that they excel at,” Morona said.
She said the goal of the program was to have the kids try a bunch of different things, many of which they’ve probably never done before, in hopes that by the end of the summer they’ll have come across something they enjoyed and will continue to pursue after they’ve left the camp.
“To put that all back here into the city, to have kids that feel really confident in themselves and their abilities, whatever those abilities are, I think camp in general does that,” Morona said. “Don’t leave a kid at home. Send them to camp somewhere.”