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Friday, Jul 25, 2014

A Few Clouds, 64 °F

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During Circus Day 2008 children play with a parachute.

Kids on Campus with a book

Gulls Rose and Allison Limo read a book of jokes while participating in Kids on Campus in 2008.

Kids on Campus waterslide

Christopher Reimer and Edwina Amagnoh beat the heat playing in the water.

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Kids on Campus focuses on Athens youth

Summer programs give children an opportunity for fun and education


Since the end of June and all of July, members of the university community may be noticing an increase in the number of young people on campus. That increase is due to Kids on Campus, a rural partnership that empowers children and their families in the realization of their full potential through educational, nutritional and recreational opportunities.

“The Kids on Campus program is an important school-improvement model that supports whole child development,” said Donna Jensen-Besaw, program director for Kids on Campus. “Academic institutions, not-for-profit agencies, local businesses and many community volunteers have joined together… to be agents of change in providing a whole family approach to community learning centers.”

Guiding the organization are the beliefs that every child has the potential to succeed, education is the key to the future, and a supportive home and community environment is essential to achieving educational and social potential. This summer, Kids on Campus will host two programs for children in the Athens community: the “Be Bold” project and Ohio University’s “Fun and Service Together” program.

“The cool part to me is that most colleges do similar fee-based programs,” said Jensen-Besaw. “We fundraise so [the children] have free tuition.”

This year, Kids on Campus was also awarded a Learn and Serve Ohio Grant from the Ohio Department of Education to help with costs for running the projects.

The “Be Bold” project, which was held at the end of June, focused on the belief that children and families who acquire the knowledge and motivation they need to make wise decisions about their eating habits and physical activity are much more likely to develop healthy lifestyles and maintain them over the course of their lifetimes.  

“Be Bold” also featured a reading lab that focused on developing reading skills, writing and critical thinking skills while promoting “Go Green” initiatives that were established  in the summer of 2009. “Be Bold” was held for children in the first through fifth grades.

Ohio University's "Fun and Service Together," or FAST, program, held June 30 through July 31, engages 150 middle-school youth from five local school districts in six weeks of environmentally-focused service-learning programming.

Youth participants will work on community service projects such as maintaining outdoor parks, recreational facilities, archeological and historic sites and wildlife habitats, while enhancing their teamwork, leadership and critical thinking skills and civic engagement.

“[The kids] learn the value of community service and learn to be engaged in that service,” said Jensen-Besaw. “There is value in helping kids broaden their horizons.”

After completing 100 hours of community service, participants are awarded a $500 educational scholarship.

Participants will work with field experts and certified teachers throughout the summer and, as a result, will be exposed to some of the career possibilities available to them after graduating from college. The FAST program engages a variety of volunteers: parents and families, Foster Grandparents, ShareCORPS members, Ohio University students and local members of the community.

“There is more one-on-one time with more volunteers,” said Jensen-Besaw. “We have more volunteers [this year] than ever before. The more volunteers we have mentoring kids the better.”

The Kids on Campus program also holds after school programs in five different elementary schools and one middle school throughout the year. The after school activities provide children with a variety of enrichment experiences including art, music, science, computers, multicultural activities cooking, dancing, physical exercise, community service and numerous recreational opportunities.

“Through the blending of resources provided by our school partners and the generosity of our sponsors, the program has produced unique, desirable outcomes for youngsters, their families and even entire school districts and communities,” said Jensen-Besaw.