Campers learn to ASPIRE

Tue, 07/03/2007 - 3:38pm
By: Andrew Widener

Several weeks this summer students with special educational needs are participating in art projects, gym class, scrap-booking, and other activities to enrich their social skills. The ASPIRE (After School Program Inclusive Recreational Educational) Camp, located within the sprightly halls of the Joseph Sams School in Fayetteville, provides an affirming, cheerful atmosphere for around 60 children, ages four to 21, to learn to relate better to themselves and their friends in a fun, creative way.

ASPIRE Camp, known previous to this year as Spot Splash when it was more recreationally focused, held at Fayette County schools, and open only to county residents, has moved to fill a vital niche by opening up attendance to students from other counties. Under the leadership of Clemene Ramsey, Kim Stapleton, and Brenda Stokes, the camp has expanded its program to be more academic and goal-orienteded. Lisa Stapleton, a teacher at the camp and a former director of Spot Splash, said the emphasis on academic objectives will ensure children do not fall behind during the summer holiday.

On an average day at ASPIRE the campers can be found lunching with their teachers in the dining room that overlooks the playground or enjoying a game of hide-and-seek organized by the student aids. The theme this year is “Charlotte’s Web,” and each week a word like friendship or love is drawn from the story and incorporated into the activities.

The camp is staffed by teachers from the Joseph Sams School and special needs educators from Fayette County schools. With a student to teacher ratio of between two and three to one, the children receive bountiful attention and guidance. Energetic volunteers from high schools and colleges imbue the campers with a powerful sense of optimism and worth. Some of these volunteers signed up after visiting the Joseph Sams School three times a week during the spring as part of a class on healthcare occupations at Whitewater High School. “The young people are phenomenal,” Stokes said.

The classrooms are named on the main floor after different animals and in the basement after colors. The bright, playful decoration of the school and the enthusiasm radiated by the staff have created a caring, dynamic environment that pervades the entire camp. It is a fitting continuation of the service Ferrol Sams, the local physician and author, rendered when he founded the school in 1984 and named it for his grandson.

ASPIRE Camp’s first session began June 4 and concluded June 28. The July session lasts from July 9 to July 26 at the Joseph Sams School on Brandywine Road. Classes are held Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, Brenda Stokes may be contacted at 770-461-5894.

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