By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
Throughout the month of June, over 150 local fourth- through eighth-grade students spent their days at the Henderson Ward Stewart complex for the Summer Adventures Camp.
“It is an all around enrichment camp for these children. This was a safe place they could come and enjoy great activities where they’re learning something, but it’s in a safe environment,” said Michelle Garraway, one of the camp’s coordinators. “Parents know when they’re here, they’re safe with us.”
The camp aimed to be fun and exciting for the kids, but to also help them retain some of the knowledge kids tend to lose over the summer. Students worked on math, science, local history and culture. They went on field trips to the Heritage Museum and the Noxubee Wildlife Refuge. The campers also participated in art, music and dance classes.
“I’ve been participating with the camp for the last four years. Throughout the four weeks, they learned ballet, African, jazz, hip hop and zydeco,” said Kayla Gilmore, a dance instructor who works with the camp. “It was important to me to make sure everything was diversified for the children to learn different types of dances. Even if they’re not dancers, they at least get a sample.”
The kids got a chance to show off their new skills at the camp’s exposition Thursday morning, which highlighted the music and dance programs. Friends and family packed into the gym to see an hour-long presentation put on by the children.
John Staggers led two groups in a drum circle. The first, a group of fourth graders, preformed what Stagger described as “in the moment” music. He started a beat and each student followed, adding in their own beat. The second group of seventh graders preformed an original composition, complete with drum solos and two freestyle raps.
Instructors Tara Lowrey and Jemero Carter led a choir of students in several patriotic songs, just in time for Independence Day, including classics like “God Bless America,” and something a little newer, “Party in the USA.”
Also in the spirt of the Fourth of July, Charlotte Leonard led a group of students in an interpretive dance to Michael W. Smith’s “The Call,” using American flags.
For the grand finale, 40 “zombies” stormed the floor in a Michael Jackson tribute. The zombies rocked out to the Jackson classic, “Thriller.”
“This is the second year anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. He is one of those dancers that I really admire,” said Gilmore. “
Toward the end of the “Thriller” performance, three mini-Michael Jacksons took the stage and stole the show. Dressed in their best King of Pop outfits, they showed off their moon walks for the whole crowd.
Overall, this year’s camp was a great success.
“All the kids have told us they’ve had a great time,” said Garraway.
The Summer Adventure Camp is funded by a federal grant provided by the Mississippi Department of Education and the Starkville School District Family Centered Programs.