It may look like nothing more than fun and games, but there’s some serious teaching going on at Camp Choices and, judging by the comments from campers, the lessons are sinking in.
About 45 campers closed out the week on Friday by sliding down water slides or taking on each other in a game of whiffle ball.
But the real lessons came in classrooms inside the Wendell Community Center, where police and firefighters spent time with the youth along with educators from the Poe Health Center.
“We want them to know how to make good choices, especially when somebody comes to them and wants them to do something that’s wrong,” said Wendell police Sgt. Jody Wall.
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That message hit home with at least some of the campers.
Kelsey Lucas, 12, said she learned about the problems that drugs, alcohol and tobacco use can bring.
“You can lose your friends, your house, your family members. It’s just not worth it,” Lucas said.
Tashanda Bridges said she enjoyed the camp, too, but for another reason. “I’m happy to have something to do, rather than sitting around the house,” Bridges said. Like Lucas, Bridges, 12, also listened when counselors were talking to the students.
“I know there are people at my school who smoke and use drugs. I learned this week about what I can say to them if they ask me if I want to try using drugs,” Bridges said.
While the camp is an opportunity for young children to learn about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, it’s also an opportunity for older children to learn a little bit of responsibility.
Bethany McGlyn is a teen counselor at the camp. She just graduated from East Wake High School and is about to start classes at Towson State University in Maryland. She’s been a counselor at Camp Choices for three years. She describes herself as not a big fan of little children, but the camp is another matter.
“It’s nice to be out here with them for a few days like this. I have a chance to talk to them and to some of the junior counselors about what they can expect when they get to high school,” McGlyn said.
In addition to the anti-drug messages from Poe Center health educators, students met with firefighters and used their smokehouse unit to learn what it’s like to be inside a house on fire. They also met with Zebulon police Officer Jesse Brown and his K-9 partner Rocky and they heard from representatives from MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
This summer marks the fifth year the police department has teamed up with the Wendell Parks and Recreation Department to operate the camp, which serves children ages 9-12. The camp is funded through a grant from the Wake County ABC Board.