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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Summer program enriching lives

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Summer Enrichment Program counselor Kim Stinebrickner-Kauffman talks to program attendee William Overshiner. The six-week program, held at Gobin United Methodist Church, seeks to provide a safe and educational environment at no charge for community children.
The Summer Enrichment Program held at Gobin United Methodist Church, now in its twentieth year, provides a safe and educational environment at no charge for community children.

The six-week program enrolls from 65 to 70 kids each summer ranging from first grade to sixth grade ages, according to its director Raja Bimbo. College and high school students serve as counselors and mentors to the students, which are divided into five groups.

The groups of children follow lesson plans ranging from teaching Spanish and astronomy to social skills and different art mediums. Director Raja Bimbo teaches the social skill classes.

"I try to teach them important skills such as patience and getting along with others," Bimbo said. "I also incorporate art in any way I can."

Through sponsorship from the local Rotary chapter, the program is able to provide swimming lessons for two weeks to all the kids. The children are also allowed to go to the park pool each week for free swimming to practice what they have learned.

"It is so important for kids to learn how to swim," said John Schlotterbeck, an advisory board member for the program. "We hear every summer about someone falling out of a boat or something and drowning because they can't swim."

Children are also taught responsibility and learn to help out by participating in kitchen patrol. Each group takes turns cleaning up the dining hall after meals. The United States Department of Agriculture's Summer Food Program provides food for the program.

Counselor Brad Robinson has worked at the camp for six years, since he was a freshman in high school. He joined the program for a summer job, but gets more than a paycheck out of the experience.

"You learn something new about kids every day," Robinson said. "They are teaching you as you teach them."

Some children attend the camp for all six years they are eligible and some even return to be counselors and junior counselors. Junior counselors are volunteers who are too old to be campers but too young to be mentors or counselors.

Cheyanna Heagy, a junior mentor, attended the enrichment program for six years before volunteering.

Summer Enrichment Program counselor Peter Edberg (next to tree) leads children in a game of capture the flag.
"I like the kids a lot and they are so fun to hang out with," Heagy said. "I have also known all these counselors since I was six. I love it here."

In her second year attending the program, 11-year-old Ellen Lesko enjoys all the outdoor activities provided by the program.

"We get to go to the pool," Lesko said. "I love to go to the emerald palace at Robe-Ann Park. It has slides and bridges we get to play on."

Lesko also said she enjoys the trips to the library. The program encourages kids to read by having them participate in the Putnam County Library Summer Reading Program and giving them quiet time, according to Bimbo.

Children are selected for the enrichment program through recommendation from school counselors, teachers and principals. Transportation is provided through the Gobin Church van and a mini-bus from Greencastle School Corporation for kids that do not have other transportation available to them.

The program has been free to all attendees since its inception. Donations from individuals, federal funding, grants and fundraisers provide funding for the program. If individuals wish to sponsor a child, the cost is $400.

The Summer Enrichment Program will have a presentation on July 13 with Mayor Sue Murray speaking. The children will put on a play directed by Greencastle High School student Kullan Edberg and cake and ice cream will be served.

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