By Malyk Johnson – 12th Grade, Allderdice High School
As students from Wilkinsburg TIGERS ran into the cafeteria on Monday morning, they crowded around a table and eagerly discussed the latest video games and TV shows. I was reminded of my days in summer camps as a young kid, which helped me keep in touch with friends over the summer months and provided me with a safe, educational environment.
On Monday, July 27, I arrived at Wilkinsburg Senior High School and was introduced to the staff members of TIGERS summer camp. TIGERS, a summer camp which runs Monday to Thursday, is free of charge and keeps students in Wilkinsburg busy with enrichment activities, such as field trips and drum lessons. The summer camp has 55 enrolled participants, but the average daily attendance is about 30 to 35 kids.
At 9:00 am, the campers ate breakfast provided by Allegheny Summer Feeding program in the cafeteria. After finishing their breakfast, they moved to the band room for a morning meeting. Here, they learned the “word of the day” to improve their vocabulary and participated in the daily boys vs. girls competition. On this day, they played an icebreaker game in which they raced to complete a secret handshake. The winning team earned points, and the team with the most points at the end of the week will win a prize, such as doughnuts.
After the morning meeting, the children were split into groups and sent to different programs: Sense of Place Learning and Assemble Pittsburgh.
Sense of Place Learning was in the cafeteria. Run by Dr. Paula Purnell, an educator and the founder of Sense of Place Learning, the camp teaches students about history and culture. The students also go on field trips to outdoor adventures, such as Camp Guyasuta in Laurel Highlands and Keystone State Park, where they learn about fishing and zip-lining.
During Sense of Place Learning, the students learned about Native American history and split into teams named after Native American tribes. When I visited, Dr. Parnell gave awards to the campers, which ranged from geocaching stones for participating in a geocaching field trip at Frick Park to a Native American flute for showing dedication to learning how to play the instrument.
At 10:30 am, the groups switched activities. The second activity took place at Assemble Pittsburgh, an organization which teaches classes relating to STEAM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). On this day, students learned about caliptography, a practice similar to leaf imprinting, in which the children made stamps out of cardboard then pressed onto paper or fabric.
At lunch, I talked to some of the students who praised the TIGERS summer camp activities. Arik, a student in the 8th grade, who has been involved for one year said, “I like a lot of the stuff here, like the wood shop and [Sense of Place Learning].”
Tiona Ramsey, 15, has been involved with the program for three years. She explained, “It’s good that kids aren’t sitting at home. They can come here.”
Jeff Antoszewski, the onsite coordinator and a Math and Special Rducation teacher with the Wilkinsburg School District, explained, “We try to keep the kids busy and moving. We give them a lot to do.”
The TIGERS program seemed like a really friendly and safe place when I was there. The Summer Camp’s final week concluded on July 30 with a showcase of the campers’ various projects on display for family and friends.