Summer camp enriches students’ social, educational needs

Summer camps with educational opportunities are in high demand after a challenging school year, but one local program is exceeding expectations and handling the huge task.

“This summer is totally different just because there’s usually a reading summer reading loss now we’re adding a Covid-19 loss,” said Leroy Wray, executive director of Prodigal Son Foundation.

The Prodigal Son Foundation typically has a summer program for students, but after this year it’s a whole different ball game to support students going into the fall.

“Now we’re just trying to make sure that we can get students as close as possible to be on that grade level,” Wray said.

The Prodigal Son Foundation has set up a learning center at the expansive facilities at Northside Baptist Church.

“We want to do our part to try and improve lives and strengthen our community,” said Veronica Washington, community engagement coordinator for Northside Baptist Church and site coordinator for the Prodigal Son program.

There is a large focus on reading, S.T.E.A.M. and other learning opportunities like coding, Legos and archery.

For some of these students, it’s their first time back with peers in a classroom.

“A lot of the kids were fully remote. I mean you could tell the excitement on their face they’re just excited to be at the house and be able to be around their peers again. It is a big deal,” said Cory Parker, an instructor for Prodigal Son.

During the school year Parker is at Butler High School, but is teaching here for the summer as he has in the past.

This summer, there are there certain things Parker wants to focus on as a teacher.

“You still want to focus on education. Education is important but seeing as this was such a different year, the focus we really want to have is just (for the) kids to have fun just to enjoy themselves and be able to be free spirits,” Parker said.

Parker is working alongside teacher Flynn O’Hagan this summer.

O’Hagan teaches health and physical education at Berryhill Middle School during the school year.

“I think we’ve been stagnant being locked inside. I think depending on your family situation, if you were able to interact with anybody. I think social and emotional focus is going to be big,” O’Hagan said.

80 students signed up for the program operating out of Northside Baptist Church, exceeding its goal of 50 and showing the demand for the program.

“This summer it’s important to just be able to interact again,” O’Hagan said. “Even an introvert. I believe, needs to be with somebody so we just need to focus on that.”

If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte public affairs manager, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.