Pickerington Times-Sun

Program aims to make summer learning fun

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Maya Gibson, a high school freshman in Pickerington, is not only working on her resume: She knows exactly where she wants to apply for a job, thanks to a summer learning collaboration between Homeport Ohio and Boys and Girls Club of Columbus.

"I want to be a sound engineer at Nationwide Arena," she said. "When I'm a senior, I'm going to apply for an internship."

She and two other students from Pheasant Run Apartments on Orono Pike off Tussing Road, eighth-grader Desiree Settle and her brother, James, in seventh grade, led open house tours July 29 of the Pheasant Run Community Center.

Dressed up and smiling, the students were articulate and enthusiastic as they told visitors about their classes.

"It's like school, but not like school," Desiree said. "It's really fun. We take classes like career launch and work on our resumes. We also got to do mock interviews at Nationwide and Bank of America."

She thinks marketing would be a good career, "because I'm a good communicator and I enjoy meeting people."

James said he loves the way teachers "add an element of fun to learning."

"They teach us real-world lessons here -- life lessons -- but make it fun," he said.

"They make it so much fun that they trick us into learning," Maya summed up.

Homeport provides affordable housing and community resources to low-income families in central Ohio. President/CEO Amy Klaben said the Boys and Girls Club of Columbus stepped in this year to operate the summer camp.

"We've had a summer camp program for the past 13 years, but this year we were able to bring it to another level and serve more kids," she said. "Our goal is to help parents and children achieve their dreams by removing barriers and bringing programs on-site."

She said there are 136 apartments at Pheasant Run and 200 children. The summer program serves about 50 children between the ages of 6 and 18.

"We also provide breakfast and lunch, which is a big help to many low-income households," Klaben said.

The classes are free of charge to parents, although this year, parents paid $5 per child so their children could join the Boys and Girls Club of Columbus (BGCC).

"This is a like mini-college for us," seventh-grader Savion Marshall said. "We learn a lot about life and careers."

The Ohio Capital Impact Corp. gave Homeport $28,000 for this year's camp, which runs from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for eight weeks.

Rebecca Asmo, BGCC executive director, said she is excited to bring classes directly to a community, instead of parents having to transport children to their facilities.

"Because the parents live here, when our staff do outreach, they can just walk across the road," she said. "Our curriculum focuses on character and career classes, leadership and healthy lifestyles."

She said the Boys and Girls Club serves about 3,500 children throughout Columbus.

Asmo said the average low-income student loses three months of grade-level learning each summer when not attending a learning program.

"Our key goal is to prevent that learning loss," she said. "We've found that 86 percent of boys and girls in summer learning programs experience no learning loss."

She said the club has partnered with other communities around Columbus, but the Pheasant Run program is the first time it has come into a community and offered a program on-site.

Asmo said the Boys and Girls Club also provides after-school classes at its facilities from 3 to 8 p.m. weekdays during the school year.

"Schools and parents can't do it all," she said. "So we provide high-quality staff and a safe learning area for children year-round."

Rachel Cohen, one of the camp instructors, is a senior at Ohio State University.

"These kids are the best kids in the world," she said. "The family unit here at Pheasant Run is unbelievable. We have teens coming in early to work on resumes and 6- to 9-year-old students giving up free time to read Maya Angelou. The kids make it fun for me, too."

Klaben said the program seeks grants and donations to provide ongoing learning opportunities.

Contributions can be made online at homeportohio.org by designating "out-of-school time programs" or to the Boys and Girls Club of Columbus at bgccolumbus.org.

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