On any given summer afternoon at the Gibson Bethel Community Center, an energized game of kick- ball, basketball or tag can be observed along with the shouting and laughter from the summer camp kids out on the field playing together. Over 190 students are registered for this year’s program which not only provides half a day of recreation but also includes a morning schedule where math, science, reading, and language arts are taught.
“The educational component is important,” said Parks and Recreation Director Lorenzo Woodley. “We are providing a school atmosphere as well so that when the kids go back to class in the fall their minds are fresh and ready to learn. They can lose that focus after a few months off.”
University of Miami student tutors are critical as supplemental staff support to maintain a learning environment. The volunteers donate their time through a program called “America Reads.” “They give us tremendous support that we lack due to financial limitations in this economy. It’s great that we have that
kind of help,” said Woodley. He credits Daisy Harrell South Miami Alliance for Youth for beginning the partner- ship with UM.
Because the kids are together for an eight to ten hour day, good organization and communication are key developmental concepts for the kids to be taught. The team oriented environment stresses critical social skills so they can get along with each other well according to Woodley.
“They are organized, don’t get too noisy, and stay with their groups. The public is also using the facility so they don’t stumble over them. Everybody stays out of every-body’s way,” said Woodley. In terms of effective leadership that sets the tone, Woodley thanks Josephine Anderson who has been after school director of the center for years.
The Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) also provided 50 scholarships to deserving youth so regardless of economic challenges, as many children as possible can participate. The ten week camp runs from June 11 to August 17 and currently has a waiting list of more families eager to sign up. “We do the best we can to offer scholarships and discounts for those going through tough economic times if they can present their hardship case; no kids are left behind.” Although the fees are a modest $30 per week which includes lunch and snack, some families are unable to enroll without assistance.
Every Friday is field trip day with an outing to the zoo, seaquarium, bowling, or skating and from 1pm to 3pm daily the students are bused to Tamiami Park Pool to swim.
Assistant director Carl Williams and recreational leader Yvette Valdes make sure the center and camp activities are running smoothly. Williams is a recent addition to the staff and his years of experience include
recreation intern for Miami-Dade County and recreational superintendent for Miami Gardens.
“This is something I am passionate about,” said Williams. “You can see the benefits of what you do, the kids, the seniors, the whole nine, you have an impact on their lives.” Williams is an administrator who is pushing to find funding for new programs like a computer lab to offer technology education as well as efforts to improve efficiency standards.
To find out more about the Gibson Bethel Community Center or to register for South Miami Grey Ghosts football and/or cheerleading call 305-668-7232.