As three community organizations continue to explore the possibility of a merger, their joint-effort, Summer Counts!, continues to offer an opportunity for children to grow both academically and creatively.
The eight-week summer program hosted by STEP Inc., The Campbell Street Family, Youth and Community Association and the Community Alliance for Progressive Positive Action has been in full-swing.
Felicia Ellzy, a certified teacher who is working with the academic side of the program, on the collaboration is pleased with the program so far.
Summer Counts! is the first program between the three organizations, as they continue to look at a merger. The groups began discussing the possibility of merging earlier this year.
"I think it's going quite well," said Heather Eisner, operations manager at The Center. "It's a new experience for everyone involved."
The program was created to give area youth a full-day service that includes academics, nutrition and recreation.
The program has 89 children active within it.
"This is a structured environment for the students," said Rachelle Abbott, STEP director of planning. "They're doing the academics and they're doing the recreation too."
The organizations have hosted summer programs separately before, but they said they are reaching more children through this endeavor. Children are split into two groups. One starts at CAPPA, while the other begins their day with The Center. They then switch after lunch.
"We've been doing math and reading and a lot of activities," said Elijah Frierson, a fourth-grade participant, on the program.
With The Center, children receive recreation, nutritional education and performance arts experience.
Students participate in performances, swim and play a variety of sports, explained James Geddy, program coordinator for The Center. They also track the food they're eating and learning how to make healthy choices.
During their time at CAPPA students are focused on academics. They both review material from the previous year as well as take a look at things they will encounter in the upcoming school year.
Participants will read at least eight books during the program, said William Harley, instructor.
Dayquan Eisner, a seventh-grade participant, said by getting a jump start on next year's material, it gives him confidence to answer questions.
It also will allow him to help his peers if they're struggling with their course work, he said.
Overall, the experience has been positive for students.
"It's good because you're not just learning but you're having fun while learning," said Tishara Connelly, a seventh-grade participant.
And although "kinks" needed to be worked out throughout the process, the collaboration has been working.
"It's a wonderful feeling to be able to work together," said Loni Gamble, CAPPA founder.