"Stretch that body!"
"Thanks for being a team player!"
"Use those legs. Push, push, push, push, push."
"She's got you, you're ok."
"Way to take your time!"
At Camp Connect, encouragement is the name of the game. At this two-week program, specially chosen 5th-graders on their way to 6th grade build their confidence before entering middle school in the fall. The program focuses on creating and solidifying relationships built during the summer—with both adults and children—to help kids feel at home in their new school from First Day on.
Practicing unlocking lockers, taking a tour of their future school, organizing notebooks, visiting the library and meeting the principal and administrative staff are all part of the program. But just as important is outdoor fun and the group activities every afternoon. And though many of the campers approach the climbing wall at The Kid's Place with some trepidation, with the encouragement of their adult leaders—and their peers—all are able to participate and succeed. By the end of the morning, nervous onlookers are transformed into laughing participants…with a new sense of confidence and courage.
After a brief information session, kids are chosen to begin the trip up the wall. Each climber is backed by another student, serving as his or her spotter, there to stand guard and provide a hand if a climber starts to fall; and a second student, serving as an "anchor," leaning back against to the ropes that are hooked to the camper and held taut throughout the climb. Looking on, counselor Carole Castonguay says the exercise offers many benefits for the students. "There are so many facets to this," she exclaims. "They're cheering for each other. They're trusting somebody new, trying something they've never tried before, and probably going higher than they've ever gone before. It's most definitely a confidence-booster! And they're just enjoying it!"
William Reese from Crosby says he had his "good days and bad days" at Crosby Elementary School, and is now looking forward to starting at Reid Middle School, where all his siblings have gone before him. He and his brother, Isaiah Williams, are both at Camp Connect this session; and today William is all smiles after "ninja-ing down the wall" (i.e., kicking off the side and bouncing down).
Headquartered at Reid Middle School, the camp enrolled students from most of the district's eight elementary schools this summer, with about half planning to attend each of the two middle schools in the fall.
Castonguay calls out one final word of encouragement as a camper nears the top. "He's doing great!" she says. "He's a spider!"