Happy campers: Bright Futures for Youth kicks off two summer camps
On Wednesday morning, Grass Valley Police Chief Alex Gammelgard held a toilet paper roll on sticks, wrapping the tissue around a number of grade school kids participating in Bright Futures for Youth’s GREAT camp.
Gammelgard was doing so in good fun, as his department has been participating in — and in some cases serving as instructors for — the camps.
During Wednesday’s event, Bright Futures for Youth — along with several local officials — celebrated its summer camp program, which finds the nonprofit collaborating with NEO Youth Services and the Grass Valley Police Department.
Gammelgard, along with District Attorney Jesse Wilson and Nevada County Chief Probation Officer Jeff Goldman, were in attendance for the event, as camp-goers exercised their skills in a series of games and activities, all meant to enhance each child’s leadership abilities as well as provide some much needed fun.
“I think any summer camp is a good thing, if it keeps kids busy and engaged and building relationships and learning how to interact with one another,” said Gammelgard, who also serves on the Board of Directors for Bright Futures for Youth.
“I think, in particular, the GREAT summer youth academy that’s happening here has tremendous benefits because it’s a program designed to teach kids lessons and ways that they can be more effective in helping one another — handling conflict, learning how to make good decisions, how to say ‘no’ to things that might be a bad influence.”
The Youth Hub Summer Day Camp, another of Bright Futures’ programs, is open to incoming transitional kindergartners to 10th grade high school students. The GREAT camp consists of two one-week camps with Grass Valley police officers and NEO staff as instructors.
The attending officials were passionate about the importance of kids being offered the chance to get out, be active, and engage in learning during the summer when many might be idle or even without parental supervision.
“I think positive activities teach good lessons for kids and keep them on the right track, and keep them out of the criminal justice system in a negative way and set good examples for other kids in the camp,” Wilson said.
Sheriff Shannan Moon, whose office provided a grant ensuring the success of the youth programs, was unable to attend Wednesday’s event, but said: “Connecting with youth and helping them develop leadership skills is very important in putting them on a path for success. Every child, regardless of their family’s income, deserves an opportunity to learn skills that will last a lifetime.”
“I think summer camp builds confidence in kids and that leads to more independence,” said Goldman. “Even with my own kids, when you see them come back, just seeing them hold their heads up a little higher, like they can do more things on their own.
“It builds empathy,” Goldman added, “when they are helping them out and take leadership roles in camp and I think that is a positive benefit moving forward.”
Halli Ellis-Edwards, NEO’s program director, said: “This is called the GREAT camp and it is in partnership with Grass Valley Police Department, and the whole goal is to bring these kids together from all different schools to come together and build really good friendships.
“At this camp we teach them leadership skills,” she continued. “We teach them about communication and how to control their anger, how to make smart decisions. We teach them about empathy.”
Ellis-Edwards added that each student is given the opportunity to develop their own community service project, and subsequently go out and serve the community in downtown Grass Valley in ways that range from passing out free lemonade to passing out flowers to strangers.
“As executive director, my role is to connect resources from the community to our organization to put on all of our awesome camps,” said Brighter Futures for Youth Executive Director Jennifer Singer, “so we are grateful to be providing the GREAT camp to the community as well as the Friendship Club camps all summer long and the youth summer day camps.
“(The kids) get to see positive role models from a number of our local agencies that are here because they have a passion for the kids,” Gammelgard said, “and want to help them succeed and give them something fun to do in the summer.”
For more information on the camps being offered over the summer, visit bffyouth.org or call 530-265-4311.
Jennifer Nobles is staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at email@example.com
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