More than just a summer camp
Ms. Smith’s Academic Summer Camp helps kids get ahead in school but also teaches them leadership skills and provides a sense of community and a place where kids feel they belong.
Niya Smith talks with Kylin Boyd, 12, while students get up for a bathroom break during Ms. Smith’s Academic Summer Camp on July 16 at the Needmore Center in Starkville. Kids who enroll in Ms. Smith’s summer camp or after school program usually use the educational services for five to nine years. “It’s really awesome to watch these kids grow,” Niya Smith said of how she gets to be part of their lives beyond camp.
An older student helps Khloe Neely, 8, adjust her mask during Ms. Smith’s Academic Summer Camp on July 21 at the Needmore Center in Starkville. As precautions for COVID-19, everyone wore masks throughout the day, except during lunch time, and people received hand sanitizer and got their temperature checked as they entered the building each morning.
Niya Smith directs kids to the vans before the group went to the skate park on July 21 outside the Needmore Center in Starkville. In previous summers, before COVID-19, campers at Ms. Smith’s Academic Summer Camp would take field trips three times a week and wear a coordinated color so they could keep track of everyone. The camp cut back on field trips amid the pandemic, only taking trips to the skate park, but still encouraged the kids to wear specific colors on each day of the week.
Tomarkus Gray, 12, watches his peers as they skate on July 21 at Skate Odyssey in Starkville. Ms. Smith’s Academic Summer Camp visits the skate park every week for a field trip. Besides doing schoolwork, campers this summer visited with guest speakers from the community, practiced a praise dance and played basketball outside.
Community leaders, from left, Jackie Rogers, Tammie Tubbs and Jarvis Boyd stand in the middle of a prayer circle during Ms. Smith’s Academic Summer Camp on July 23 at the Needmore Center in Starkville. Before praying, the three led a panel discussion about how to be your best self and have confidence.
From left, Allyson Henley, 10, Alhyson Jett, 9, and Kylah Neely, 10, comfort each other and wait for prayers to conclude during Ms. Smith’s Academic Summer Camp on July 23 at the Needmore Center in Starkville. Community leaders led a prayer circle for the campers and then offered to pray for with the kids individually about anything that was on their minds. Allyson, Alhyson and Kylah each received prayers and then sat down together while the rest of their peers were prayed over.
Campers of Ms. Smith’s Academic Summer Camp perform a praise dance on the last day of camp on July 24 at the Needmore Center in Starkville. The campers worked on the dance all summer, and Tonya Davis, co-director of the camp, said the performance is the culmination of all their teamwork and collaboration. The dance was choreographed by Mya Halbert, who is one of the camp’s high school students and who is heading to college in the fall.
Cherries Bibbs hugs her son Cameron Bibbs, 7, after he performed a praise dance on the last day of Ms. Smith’s Academic Summer Camp on July 24 at the Needmore Center in Starkville. After a week of sanitizing the facility and preparing for the school year, Ms. Smith’s Educational Services will begin programming again on Monday. They will have some homeschooled students, some students doing virtual school, and some students who come after school.
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