Winburn eighth-graders spent one morning at God's Pantry, where they sorted, packaged and boxed vegetable pasta. Photo from FCPS.
By Tammy Lane
Fayette County Public Schools
“Leadership” is the watchword in a new two-week summer enrichment camp at Winburn Middle School. Funded by a 21st Century Community Learning Service grant, the camp aims to equip eighth-graders to be self-assured young people on a positive path.
“It’s all kind of tied in with leadership and civic consciousness and community service,” said Blair Haydon, grant program manager at Winburn.
The camp, which grew out of teachers’ suggestions, encompasses a variety of topics, guest speakers and field trips to such places as the Ronald McDonald House and Southside Technical Center. The overarching theme reflects the importance of individual initiative and community involvement.
“We had a whole lesson on what a leader is and what a follower is,” participant Timari Richardson said at the midway point. “It shows us how to be role models, take care of each other and be there for each other.”
“We also talk about careers we might want to do and colleges we want to get into,” added classmate Braeden Warren.
One day, admissions officer Jamie Watkins led a tour of Spencerian College, which is an alternative to a four-year university.
“We showed them around the school and told them about what we do and what sets us apart. The department chair from each field came in to share what their program is about and what career fields are out there,” Watkins said. “This could be an option for them to get them on the fast track and out in the workforce as quickly as possible. That’s something they’ll be able to relay back to the other kids.”
Another way eighth-graders can step up and make a mature contribution is by being sensitive to others’ circumstances. “They might know of people who need help, and as leaders they can put those people together with the places that can help them,” said Mandy Brajuha, the external relations director at God’s Pantry.
In the food bank outing, the campers sorted bulk pasta in the warehouse. Some donned hairnets and gloves to slide handfuls of noodles into long plastic bags, while others weighed the packages, labeled them and boxed them.
“It makes us feel good that we helped out somebody,” Braeden said during a break.
The students’ two-hour assembly line required a measure of communication, cooperation and teamwork. That gave them a chance to practice what they had learned from Mike Massoglia, youth/adults sports director at the High Street YMCA.
“We worked through the NITS cycle of teambuilding – a slow process where they complete tasks as a group,” he said after a visit to Winburn. (NITS stands for Name recognition, Inhibition reduction, Trust-building and Solving problems.)
“They had a really good group dynamic. They listened to each other well,” said Massoglia, who guided the students through various scenarios.
He also emphasized that the best leader is not always the most vocal person, saying, “Everybody’s opinion, everybody’s viewpoint is valued. It’s important to listen to everyone’s ideas.”
Brajuha said camps like Winburn’s can really make a positive impact on young people.
“They’re trying to empower these kids to be leaders in their school and also leaders in their community. That shaping starts now, when they’re more pliable,” she said. “They need to be involved in their community and take care of their bodies and stand up for what they believe in and use their voices for good.”