Kids on Campus provides educational and recreational fun for 150 local children

Published: August 1, 2023 Author: Jalyn Bolyard

Ohio University brought 150 children from around Southeast Ohio to campus for a fun-filled month of outdoor learning and research activities, including a brand-new STEM track.

Kids on Campus hosted its 2023 Summer Camp from June 12 to July 14. The annual summer camp provides educational and recreational activities for local, underserved students. The camp is divided into three age groups: primary, middle, and teen. 

Thanks to a donation from a private donor, Paula Tolliver, there was also a STEM section this year, which focused on more advanced scientific activities and career opportunities, with an emphasis on showcasing women in the sciences, according to Jo Ellen Sherow, Kids on Campus program manager.

“There are almost no opportunities for area children with limited financial means to attend an extensive summer camp like ours,” Sherow said. “Kids on Campus does not charge for our camp, and we provide five weeks of extensive educational and fun activities along with nutritional support during the summer. Our kids see a more diverse world, with experiences they would never have had without us.”

Sherow shared she was excited about the increased number of community partners for this year’s camp, as well as the generous donation from Tolliver for the specialized STEM Track.

“This allowed us to work with students who really wanted to do more science, but also have some ‘camp’ experiences. This and support from the Ohio University Foundation Beck Fund also gave us a chance to allow some students not in our regularly funded schools and programs the opportunity to come to camp this summer,” she said.

Each day included new experiences for the campers, along with free breakfast, lunch and snacks. 
 

Campers kayak at Strouds Run State Park
The teen campers got to kayak at Strouds Run State Park. Photo provided by Kids on Campus.

Activities ranged from arts and crafts for the younger campers, touring Peden Stadium and creating with 3D imaging technology for the middle group, to ziplining in Hocking Hills and visiting local places like Passion Works for the teens. The campers also got some time for summer favorites like swimming, too.

One primary student said their favorite part of camp was “making new friends.” A teen camper said, “I really loved swimming, watching movies and our field trips. They were summer fun!”

The STEM group worked with Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Ohio University departments with chemistry and geology related activities. According to Sherow, each student created a poster about a STEM career and then presented it to faculty and staff. 

A STEM camper said their favorite part of summer camp was “the science fair because we could show who we are.”

Funding for the program also allows Kids on Campus to partner and collaborate with local businesses and organizations, helping keep resources and money in southeastern Ohio, Sherow noted. 

While providing safe, summer fun for local students, Kids on Campus Summer Camp also offered internship opportunities for OHIO students at all levels – undergraduate, graduate and doctoral – providing hands-on work experience.

With 60 staff on hand to support this year’s summer camp, about half of those were OHIO students, ranging from majors in social work and early childhood education to astrophysics and sport management.
 

Staff members pose for a group picture on a stairwell
Kids on Campus 2023 Summer Camp had 60 staff members, including OHIO students accounting for almost half. Photo provided by Kids on Campus.

“This camp gives OHIO students a unique opportunity to really engage with the region in which they are attending school, seeing some of the struggles of our families, but also the resiliency and rich heritage they have. I think it makes our students leave Ohio University with a much richer experience and with stronger ties to our region and our school,” Sherow said.

“It gives our kids the chance to see that they can navigate a big college campus and aspire to continue their educational journeys,” she continued. “I have seen staff who were campers become students and now serve as full time employees with us.  We give our kids great camps and afterschool programs, but also give our University students unique, real-world experiences and support area businesses. I love what we do.”

Throughout the school year, Kids on Campus reaches hundreds of children with educational, nutritional and recreational opportunities. OHIO students can also get involved with the program throughout the academic year, too. 

Students enrolled in select school districts in Athens, Meigs, Perry and Washington counties are eligible for participation. The current partner schools include Alexander Local School District, Athens City School District, Eastern Local School District, Belpre City Schools, Federal Hocking Local Schools, Southern Local School District, and Nelsonville York City Schools. 

“This program is so much more than summer camp, though we do an amazing summer camp,” Sherow said. “We reach hundreds of children in afterschool programs and provide families with vital childcare at no cost to them. We are the front door to multiple area resources for struggling families.”