Community organizations, college professors, and their students have once again joined forces to provide local at-risk boys a chance to make a change in their lives.
For the ninth year, Georgia Highlands College is hosting its annual Foundation Camp, a free day camp for boys ages 10-14. It kicked off Monday at the school’s Rome campus on Cedartown Highway with around 120 participants.
David Mathis, camp administrator, said they are providing a way for kids who may not be on the right path toward a good education to get a better view of the future.
“We want to help them understand that college is and should be a part of their future,” Mathis said. “We are showing them that people do care about them and want to get them ready to be, in many case, first-generation college students.”
Ike Nwokike is a former GHC student and serves as a counselor for the two-week program.
“When a lot of these kids come in at first they are shy and don’t speak a whole lot,” Nwokike said. “But by the end of it they are changed. They walk up to you with confidence and will shake your hand.”
Nwokike got involved in the camp three years ago when GHC professor Jon Hershey asked him if he would serve as one of the counselors.
Now, Nwokike is a medical student at Morehouse College in Atlanta but still makes time each June to return to the camp.
“This is my way of giving back,” Nwokike said. “I was lucky to be admitted here when I was going to school. This shows the importance of stopping once in a while and helping others.”
Through the inclusion of classroom activities like poetry writing, biology, physics, and social media skills, Mathis said they hope to expose the campers to a well-rounded itinerary.
“We’re very proud to place an emphasis on academics along with athletics,” Mathis said. “We try to give them a taste of the college experience on a college campus.”
Nwokike said anger management is one of the classes he has seen make the most difference in the lives of those who attend the camp.
“A lot of these kids, they don’t know how to deal with these feelings that they have,” he said. “But they develop the ways to work through them. It gives them the tools they need to be successful in the future.”
Once the camp is over, contact is maintained with campers by monitoring grades, mentoring, and stepping in to help when needed.
The program is presented in part through a partnership with the 100 Black Men of Rome-Northwest Georgia, and donations from people and local businesses.
“We are fortunate to live in a community with so many giving and caring individuals,” Mathis said.
Monday saw members of the Coosa Valley Tennis Association donate their time to instruct kids in tennis. Mathis said the Coosa River Basin Initiative is providing canoes and kayaks for the campers to use on river trips.
Other activities include swimming, SCUBA demonstrations, and a trip to Lake Winnepesaukah on the last day of the camp.