?Expo'sing south side summer camps

By Clay Wilson

Shenita Scott's Youth Under Construction Inc. program offers its own summer camp for children ages 10 to 17.

But Scott said she realizes that, with youth summer programs, one size doesn't necessarily fit all.

"I just think that what we have to offer is great, but what we have may not be what the child and the parent needs. We are a community-centered organization, and it's not just about us," she said.

Scott, the founder and executive director of Youth Under Construction, was explaining why she felt compelled to organize the first South Metro Summer Camp Expo. The event was held Thursday at the Merle Manders Conference Center in Stockbridge.

About 30 exhibitors, ranging from the Michael Vick Offense/Defense Summer Camp to local and regional YMCA programs, set up at the conference center to showcase their summer youth activities.

Among the exhibitors was Scott's own Youth Under Construction Inc. YUC is a non-profit, faith-based organization whose mission is "to promote the development of leadership skills and positive attitudes in youth ages 10 to 17, thus empowering them to be productive citizens."

Scott said she started the Jonesboro-based organization at the end of 2002 "to fill the gap (for) that middle and high school age group." She said she had noticed that many youth programs focus their energies on children at the elementary school level, and wanted to offer older kids an option.

YUC held its own nine-week day camp last summer, with more than 100 kids participating. But Scott said that a summer camp expo she had attended early last year in north Atlanta had left an impression on her.

"We just wanted to bring all the opportunity to the south side," she said.

Scott contacted Merle Manders Conference Center Director Miranda Roberts, who agreed with her vision.

"We feel that with the growth in this area and with the amount of opportunity, a lot of these parents need to know that these programs are out there," Roberts said.

She said she and Scott heavily promoted the event, doing local radio spots and distributing more than 7,000 fliers.

One of the fliers made its way into the hands of Belinda Garrett, who works with Children and Youth Services at Fort McPherson. Garrett said her boss brought her the flier and asked her to check out the expo.

"During the summer we generally offer a ? camp, but in case we don't we like to have a resource for (parents) to go to," she said.

Garrett also said she was impressed by her visit to the expo.

"I think it's wonderful. I was just trying to call (my boss) and let her know I'm here and all the wonderful opportunities they have here," she said.

According to Roberts, the event's sponsors plan to make the expo a yearly affair.

"We are going to definitely make this annual and hopefully do something that will make it continue to grow," she said.