Summer camp keeps local students’ skills sharp during break

Victor Mendoza plays a game with two summer camp students.

Danielle Dourson admits that she would often forget what she had learned during the school year while she was on summer break.

Dourson was one of the Durham Technical Community College students who helped the children of McDougald Terrace keep their math, reading, and science skills sharp this summer during the Summer Fun Camp. The weekly camp began June 25 and ran until Aug. 3.

“We try new things every day depending on their focus that day,” said Dourson, who finished her studies at Durham Tech this summer. “We try to play games with them and then try to make the game into something fun that’s also academic.”

Durham Tech partnered with Durham Housing Authority, Durham County Library, and Book Harvest to present the free camp to the young residents of the housing community.

“Interacting with these campers is very rewarding,” said Patrick Morris, Durham Tech Center for Academic Excellence director. “It’s been fun working with our partners and seeing how Durham Tech can fit in and what needs we can fill.”

The six-week camp was geared towards elementary and middle school students.

Morris along with Durham Tech students Dourson, Victor Mendoza, and Zac Mills had the campers twice a week. Each week’s lessons and activities were based around a central theme.

The first week, for example, was World Records Week.

“One day, we did this measuring activity where they had to find out how tall they were in inches, how tall they were in crayons, how tall they were in all these different types of measurements,” Morris said.

Dourson liked tapping into some of the campers’ competitive nature.

“What I was doing today was having them race to see who could do the multiplication exercises faster, which I did when I was in third grade,” she said.

Dourson, who is now studying communications at NC State University, said she has served as an after-school and camp counselor and one day would like to have a job working with children.

The Durham Tech participants also provided the campers with more traditional camp activities.

During the week in July that was focused around dinosaurs, the elementary and middle school students engaged in an outdoors scavenger hunt. They were given sheets to complete during the hunt; those who finished the sheets could pick out a prize of a plastic dinosaur.

As the hunt roared on outside, Mendoza stood patiently inside with the prize bag. Winners soon trickled in and approached Mendoza, who would then hold the bag open for the kids to reach in and select their reward.

Mendoza, a former elementary school teacher, said developing a connection with the campers took a little bit of time but, after a couple sessions, the connection started growing stronger.

“They are really nice. They are really cool,” Mendoza said as the campers approached him. “They are just high energy but that’s just kids.”

Mendoza and Mills continue to help elementary and middle school students living at McDougald Terrace by tutoring them and helping them with their homework after school.

Danielle Dourson helps a summer camp student with an academic exercise.