Kansas Kids at GEAR UP holds summer camp

2:52:18 PM CDT - Wednesday, July 14, 2004

By Melissa Lacey

For some Wichita pre-teens and teens, a visit to the Great Plains Nature Center in northeast Wichita is a rare and welcome experience. Before the recent field trip, the only wildlife Kyleigh Haill, 11, of Wichita, was familiar with was her pet ball python named Six. While no pythons were present on this particular day, Kyleigh did get to see turtles, ducks, fish, frogs and a heron.

Summer ETC Camp
Eleven-year-olds Cindy Montgomery, left, and Kyleigh Haill, both of Wichita, look for wildlife below a bridge at the Great Plains Nature Center, 6232 E. 29th St. N., during a recent Summer Enrichment Teen Camp field trip, coordinated by the Kansas Kids at GEAR UP project at WSU.

Photo by Melissa Lacey

Kyleigh is among 50 Wichita youths converging at a variety of local attractions during a summer program called Summer ETC (Enrichment Teen Camp) through July 29. The Sedgwick County regional program of the statewide Kansas Kids at GEAR UP is holding the camp from 1-5 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays. The free camp, which began June 22, is open to foster care, adoptive, limited income and first-generation potential college students ages 11 to 15.

Kansas Kids at GEAR UP is a federally funded program for early academic intervention, serving kindergarten through 12th grade students. Wichita State University is receiving $2.5 million annually from the U.S. Department of Education for five years for project administration. The state and regional Sedgwick County offices are housed at WSU. The Kansas GEAR UP project, formally called Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, is nearing the end of its second year

The mission of Kansas Kids at GEAR UP is to increase not only the number of students graduating from high school, but also those who are prepared for enrollment in post-secondary education, said Tony Sumler, state coordinator. The statewide goal is to provide direct service to 2,500 students each year, he said.

"We already have more than 2,500 kids in the program," Sumler said.

The goal of the camp is to extend the school year with summertime opportunities that are fun and educational, said Jeremy Kindy, camp director and Wichita YMCA teen director. The YMCA is a co-sponsor of the camp.

"The camp offers more of an experiential learning process, as opposed to a textbook education," said Kindy.

The six-week camp offers weekly themes including fitness, science and technology, and career exploration. Activities include tennis, swimming, roller-skating, nutrition and responsibility counseling, and newsletter writing. Field trip locations include Riverside Park, the YMCA North branch, The Wichita Eagle newspaper, Exploration Place and a Kansas City Royals baseball game in Kansas City, Mo. Camp headquarters are McAdams and Osage recreation centers in Wichita.

"The camp provides a safe, supervised environment for in-between years students those who are too old for babysitting and too young for a job," said Kindy. Scheduled during midweek afternoons, the camp gives youths a positive alternative to lounging at home with nothing to do, said Kindy. Social interaction outside one's daily environment is another added benefit, he said.

"It's really fun being here because there's so many other kids and we get to meet new people," said Cindy Montgomery, 11, of Wichita. "The most fun was the baseball game," she added. "They had really good food. The Royals lost, though."

In addition to Kansas Kids at GEAR UP and the YMCA, camp partners are the Wichita public schools and the city of Wichita.

About Kansas Kids at GEAR UP

In 2002, Wichita State University was awarded $12.5 million from the U.S. Department of Education for a GEAR UP grant for children in Kansas. The five-year grant is to be matched through in-kind support, scholarships and operating funds, for a total value of $25 million.

By increasing the number of students who graduate from high school and who are prepared for post-secondary education, Kansas Kids at GEAR UP will help children reach their full potential and consequently improve their educational and social outcomes, according to its Web site at www.wichita.edu/gearup.

Direct services provided statewide include cultural activities, tutoring, Saturday programs, community service, college visits and summer camps. There are five regional programs within the Kansas Kids at GEAR UP project.

Another key component of the grant allows for student scholarships for post-secondary education, including vocational schools, community colleges, colleges and universities. Scholarship planning is under way and will be announced later this year, according to state coordinator Tony Sumler.

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