By Curt Yeomans
Hannah Brown has been attending the Salvation Army's Youth Summer Camp for so many years, she does not even remember her first time in the program.
Brown, 12, a resident of McDonough, began attending annual summer camp when she was only 2. She started attending because various family members were counselors, but she learned to enjoy it, and now looks forward to camp every year.
"I'm still learning here, and we get to learn a lot about Jesus at this camp," Brown said. "As you get older, the lessons get a little deeper as you take a closer look at the Bible."
Brown was one of 40 children who participated in a dress rehearsal on Thursday for the camp's grand finale program, a science-themed mock television program where Brown doles out lessons about the Bible between science experiments.
The campers will perform for parents and well-wishers on Saturday, at 10 a.m., at the Salvation Army's Jonesboro office, located at 130 Smith St.
This is the 11th year the summer camp program has been offered at the Salvation Army's Jonesboro office. When it was started by Melissa Cordova in 1997, only 20 youths were signed up as participants. Now, Cordova has a waiting list every year, and several of the campers have been coming back for several summers.
"It's been a real blessing for me," Cordova said. "I can't go to a store without somebody I know from this camp coming up to say 'Hi.' I love these kids. I've watched them grow up, and I think they have all turned out to be outstanding kids."
The camp is designed to teach children about the Bible over an eight-week period, since the Salvation Army is a Christian organization, Cordova said. As students like Brown, and Morrow resident, Makinsey Rosser, 10, grow up, their religious lessons develop with them.
"If you're 5, then you mainly draw pictures of Jesus," said Rosser, who has attended the camp since she was 4. "When you're 10, you're learning about who Jesus is, and the difference between making good decisions and bad decisions," she added.
"The most important part is learning about Jesus," said Daniel Martinez, 9, a resident of Lovejoy, who has attended the camp since he was 6.
"He gave us his [body] and blood," added Ryan Turner, 11, of McDonough, who has attended the camp since he was 4.
Other lessons focus on developing leadership skills, such as how to be a good role model to others. Cordova said the children who have learned the leadership skills are asked to undergo team leader training when they turn 13.
"When I was younger, the older kids were great role models," said Winter Snow, 12, of Jonesboro, who has attended the camp since she was 6. "They taught me a lot of things, but the most important thing they taught me was how to be a responsible person."