An African-American church on the outskirts of Mooresville, N.C., (near Charlotte) has developed a summer camp that is giving young people life-skills training and time to brush up on their math and reading.
Camp 3165 is named after Sills Creek AME Zion church’s address, 3165 Bradshaw Road in Mooresville, near the Iredell/Rowan County line.
Students come from towns in North Carolina such as Kannapolis, Troutman, Landis and Mocksville.
Fifteen students ages 5-12 have met there 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday since June for physical education, spiritual development and education classes. Breakfast and lunch are provided free, thanks to the Rowan-Salisbury School System Child Nutrition Services program. Parents pay $50 a week to have their children enrolled in Camp 3165, said Tonya Cornelius, 43.
She is one of two directors of the camp, which she said was the brainchild of William Jordan III, a former pastor.
Besides spiritual and character development, the camp emphasizes math, science and English to help give the young people a jump-start on the school year. Eleven of the 15 students are African-American males.
“We didn’t know we were getting this many boys,” Cornelius said.
But she says this has been a blessing and a chance to instill a sense of responsibility and pride in the children before they become included in bad statistics.
Fifty-eight percent of African-American males graduate from high school in North Carolina, compared to 71percent for white males, according to a 2012 study by Schott Foundation for Public Education. More troubling: The United States has one of the highest high school dropout rates in the world, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Education, and ranks 14th in college attainment.
“We don’t want them to be in that number,” Cornelius said. “We are giving them a solid foundation. We want to see manners. Hygiene is important. We need to watch our language. No sagging pants. We are trying to give them a good foundation for junior high and high school.”
Quinta Ellis, 27, is a high school history teacher in Raleigh who decided to spend the summer in her hometown of Salisbury and travel from home to the church to help co-direct Camp 3165.
“Some came in very low in certain academic and social skill areas, and already I’ve seen growth,” Ellis said.
Halfway through the camp, which ends in August, Ellis has noticed fewer grammatical mistakes in written papers, she said, improved critical thinking and speaking skills and improvement in behavior and attitudes.
“We must be doing something right,” Ellis said.
Students at the camp also take field trips and do community service. One project is a weekly visit to Carillon Assisted Living in Salisbury. Students are matched with an elderly reading buddy. They read to each other for about 45 minutes.
Cornelius said the pairings are working out OK, despite some initial nervousness among the students about interacting with elders.
“They are getting an understanding that this is OK (to be an elder). The resident could actually be a grandparent of theirs one day,” she said.
Cornelius said she hopes to continue the program next summer with grants so parents won’t have to pay out of pocket.