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School’s out for the summer

Clayton’s youths figuring out how to keep busy

Photo by Jeylin White                            
Zaria Ware, 7, and her brother, Xavier, enjoy a fun day at Smith Street park, on their last day of school. The two attend Clayton County Public Schools, and the last day of school was Friday May, 18.

Photo by Jeylin White Zaria Ware, 7, and her brother, Xavier, enjoy a fun day at Smith Street park, on their last day of school. The two attend Clayton County Public Schools, and the last day of school was Friday May, 18.

Jonesboro High School sophomore, Tyler Howell, 15, was ready to hit the basketball courts on Friday, seeing how it was the last day of school. “I’m just ready to get my summer started and shoot some hoops,” said the teenager.

On Friday, May 18, the day was cut short for the thousands of Clayton County Public School students, as it was officially the first day that the scores of eager youths began their summer vacation.

With schools letting out at noon, Tyler Howell said he wanted to get an early start on his summer plans, and decided to go to Lee Street Park, in Jonesboro, and brush up on his basketball skills.

“My uncle is working on getting me into a basketball camp for the summer,” said Howell.

Howell’s younger sister, Suder Elementary fifth-grader, Ashley, who decided to tag a long with her brother, said her summer vacation will be filled with enrichment activities, such as a summer enrichment reading camp.

“I need to improve my reading skills,” said the youngster, “so the only fun thing I will be doing for this summer is attending my friend’s birthday party.”

While Howell and his younger sister have their summer pretty much set, that was not the case for 13-year-old D.J. Pompey, a seventh-grader at Jonesboro Middle School. “There’s nothing to do,” said Pompey. “[Clayton County] should offer more activities for us to do in the summer. If they did, they would not see so many of us getting into trouble.”

Pompey was also at Lee Street Park, on Friday, to play basketball, but with his mentor, Robert Hoyt, an employee with Forest Park Family Health Care Services. “There’s not enough activities for youths,” Hoyt agreed. “I have been mentoring young people since 1996, and there are more youths getting locked up than adults, and that has a lot to do with there not being enough activities available for young people during the summer.”

Hoyt said the responsibilities for providing more recreational activities for youths falls back on the county and the adults. “The county is aware of what’s going on, and they’re not doing anything about it,” he said. “Yet, they’re building more and more jails, and not enough recreation centers. Seems to me that they want our youths to fail.”

Alton Watkins, pastor of Fellowship Church, in Jonesboro, operates a youth summer camp and after-school enrichment program, called “Count Me In.” According to Watkins, there’s a reading assessment test that’s given to 7-year-olds by the government, in which they determine whether or not, based off those reading results, they will have to build more jails.

“They’re already setting are children up for failure,” said Watkins. “Which is why I emphasize reading in my program.”

Daffenie Ware, of Jonesboro, has two children who attend Clayton County public schools. She said she is all about enrichment. “When I’m looking for summer camps for my children, I really look to see what types of enrichment programs they offer,” she said. Ware said she enrolled her two children this summer in Reach Academy, a daycare facility, located in Jonesboro. Unlike Hoyt, Ware said –– in her opinion –– there are plenty of activities in the county available to youths.

“It really depends on if you want to pay the money for the camp –– they’re not free,” she said. “To me, the [district] does a good job with letting parents know of all the camps available. Like I said, it just depends on if you want to pay the money.”

Watkins said he understands the economic strain for some parents, but currently his youth camp is being sponsored by his church, and the youngsters who attend his camp, are members of the church. With this being the first year for the camp, he said, the program is limited to 12. “It’s just my wife and I,” he said, “But as we get more funds, hopefully, we will be able to accommodate more.”

The following is a list of some of the programs offered in the county this summer:

• Clayton State University’s youth camps will begin Monday, June 11, and will be open to Clayton County youngsters, ages 7 to 16. Those who are interested in participating, can visit the Continuing Education web site at www.conted.clayton.edu, for detailed information about each course, location and fees.

• Space is also still available for local children to sign up for Arts Clayton's two-week Kaleidoscope and Young Teen Art camps, which will take place from June 4, to June 15, at James A. Jackson Elementary School, located at 7711 Mt. Zion Blvd., in Jonesboro. Elizabeth Gower, the administrator for both camps, said she can take in another 30 elementary-school-age children for the Kaleidoscope Art Camp, and up to 15 more middle-school children for the Young Teen Art Camp. Gower said Kaleidoscope participants can sign up for virtually any of the performing arts and visual arts classes.

“We need more performers, we need more kids in general,” she said. Children who participate in the Kaleidoscope Art Camp take one performing arts class, and one visual arts class. The camp administrator said she only has space, in the Young Teen Art Camp, for teenagers interested in taking classes in ceramics, 3-D sculptures, painting and singing. Registration costs $180 per child for the Kaleidoscope Art Camp, and $225 per class for the Young Teen Art Camp. Applications can be picked up at the Arts Clayton Gallery, located at 136 South Main Street, in Jonesboro. The camps will run from 8:30 a.m., to 12:15 p.m., each day. Call (770) 473-5826, for more information.

• Clayton County Parks and Recreation will be offering Teen Summer League Basketball for all high school students. Registration in open now, until June 2. Those interested in signing up, can visit the Clayton County Parks and Recreation web site at www.claytonparks.com, for more information.