Saturday, Oct 21, 2017

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OHIO sophomore Jessica Depeel of Albany (center) served as an assistant team leader in this year's Kids on Campus program.

OHIO sophomore Jessica Depeel of Albany (center) served as an assistant team leader in this year's Kids on Campus program. She is pictured with team leader Carolyn Milbaugh (left) and volunteer Sandy Conner.

Photo courtesy of: College of Health Sciences and Professions

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Kids on Campus leaves mark on OHIO sophomore

Six-week program empowers underserved, at-risk local children

The annual six-week Kids on Campus program that offered 250 school-age children from six local school districts an opportunity to visit campus and participate in fun learning activities wrapped up earlier this month, and at least one assistant team leader who helped lead the program called it a unique experience that gave her a chance to help local kids. 

“I basically did everything the kids did,” said Jessica Depeel, 19, of Albany, who is a sophomore at Ohio University majoring in accounting. “Some of them have a rough home life, so it was really nice and felt good to help someone.”

Kids on Campus is a rural community-university partnership that empowers underserved, at-risk children and their families realize their full potential through educational, nutritional and recreational opportunities. In 2013 (the latest information available), 74 percent of the participants were classified as economically at-risk, 38 percent had a documented academic need, and 29 percent were both academically and economically disadvantaged.

Now in its 19th year, Kids on Campus is open to students in every school within Athens County, as well as Millcreek Elementary and Miller High School in Perry County. The six school districts that participated in this year's program included Alexander, Athens City, Federal Hocking, Nelsonville-York, Southern Local and Trimble Local school districts. Collectively, the districts helped promote the program, recruit students and provided buses to transport students.

The program garnered so much enthusiasm from students, who enjoyed playing games, socializing and swimming, that one of Depeel’s students recognized and excitedly called her name while sailing high in the sky on a ride during the Athens County Fair.

“He was in one of the monkey cages and I heard ‘Ms. Jessica, Ms. Jessica!’ and he was yelling at me on the ground. The ride was going around and around. I saw him and knew he was one of my kids, so I waited until he got off the ride,” said Depeel, who has worked at Kids on Campus for three consecutive years. “It’s just a great job and the kids are great. After the first year, I made bonds with the kids and they asked if I was coming back next year, and then they expected to see me."

For six weeks, Depeel’s days consisted of arriving to campus early where she and her co-workers helped their group of 25 third and fourth-grade students step from the buses, eat breakfast, do two fun activities, eat lunch, complete two additional activities, and have a snack before helping them get back on their buses to go home at 3 p.m.

There were nine groups of kids, and each had a team leader, assistant team leader and junior leader.

“We had four activities each day, which we broke up into two week intervals,” she explained. “We had nature and swimming and reading and cooking the first two weeks, then sports and games, arts and crafts, swimming and reading, and then team time and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). We took a field trip to the Hocking Hills, went to a movie at The Athena Cinema, and had COSI on Wheels visit campus.”

Electives also were set up where teams of kids could participate in a variety of activities, including parachute games, dodge ball, drawing, and more. Despite all the activities, swimming always was favored by the kids, Depeel said.

“My favorite activities were the STEM activities,” she said. “We made s’mores with solar ovens we made out of pizza boxes, plastic and aluminum foil, and made chalk with plaster of Paris and water and penny roller holders, so the kids really liked that. It was just a really fun job.”

"The summer program couldn’t exist without the hard work and dedication of employees like Jessica," said Timarie Francis, program manager of Kids on Campus. "While the team staff are with students all the time, coordination of the program takes a team of staff who plan activities, as well as the administrative staff. Amanda Brooks, Jennifer Woods and Crystal Smith complete the prep and planning work and provide support for the other staff members."

"It is amazing to watch the impact we make with the children as a result of all the time and effort by these staff members," Francis said. "We also are thankful for all the support of Ohio University, The College of Health Sciences and Professions, and Dean Randy Liete."