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For the children

Posted: October 1, 2013 8:56 a.m.
Updated: October 2, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Parents often say to me, “Camden’s got nothing for kids.” Suggestions and solutions reference skating rinks, bowling alleys, swimming pools, and sports tourism facilities. Some people believe the activities in question should be free.

The truth is, Camden and Kershaw County offer after-school activities for all age groups, and we are in conversation with community partners to improve what we have, especially for older, at-risk teenagers. In most cases, scholarships are available for families in need.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands have green-lighted a Teen Center for the old CLC building, formerly Jackson High School, across from Camden High School. The Clubs offer sports, arts and character building programs after students finish their homework. The Teen Club needs $40,000 to open in late fall. A group of us have raised half that amount. People wanting to contribute please contact Director Carter Clark at (803) 231-3351 or cclark@bgcmidlands.org.

The Fine Arts Center (FAC) of Kershaw County (http://www.fineartscenter.org, 425-7676) serving mostly younger children, offers tap, lyrical dance and ballet, as well as drawing, pottery, ceramic sculpture, guitar, piano, and violin lessons. They offer summer theatre camps for campers 5 and up, and Acting Up! for ages 8 and up. A partnership with Columbia Children’s Theatre allows teenage and elementary school children participation in a full-stage production. The fall show is “Harry’s Hotter at Twilight” (a spoof on the popular vampire and Harry Potter stuff).

Dr. Susan Wyatt’s Chamber Choir of Kershaw County (kids and adults) performs all over the state, and even in New York City, and you can schedule your own birthday parties working with clay.

During the summer, the FAC offers Art Camp and Preschool Art Camps, Grade 2 through 12 years; the School Arts Residency Program provides hands-on experiences with practicing artists. The School Arts Performance Series includes chamber music, professional theatre and dance companies -- hundreds of artists and performers. Brevard Music Scholarship winners have money for further study or they can spend the summer at the Brevard Summer Music Camp. It’s all good.

For Teens, how about The Step Up Dance Program? Call Brian Mayes, (803) 243-0732 to talk about joining his groups or discussing other recreational activities. For parents interested in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or Cub Scouts, call Kevin Rhodes at his school district office, 572-2520.

The Kershaw County Recreation Department administers school athletics and also weeklong summer programs. With brand-new director Joe Eason, everything’s looking good. Call the department (425-6009) for more information about dates, times and ages. Summer programs include: Sports Fun Camp; Volleyball Camp; Baseball Camp; Lugoff-Elgin Softball Camp for girls; Summer Playground Program in Bethune; Cheerleading Camp; Creative Art Camp; Summer Horse Riding Camp; a day-camp for the developmentally disabled (ages 6 to 21); Lugoff Elgin Basketball Camp (boys and girls); Junior Golf Camp; Soccer Camp; and “H20 Fun” Camp (swim camp).

The Wateree Gymnastics Center (next to the Atlas Gym on Gordon Street) offers Preschool Gymnastics, Developmental Gymnastics, and Competitive Gymnastics for children of all ages. Also: tumbling; cheerleading; ballet; jazz; tap and clogging. They also have an Afterschool Care Program for K5 - Middle School, a summer camp program, birthday parties, and “Parent's Night Out.” They offer bus pick-up from many local schools. Call 432-2609 or email admin@watereegymnastics.com.

Kershaw County Library October programs in Camden, Elgin and Bethune offer, mostly to younger children: Mother Goose on the Loose, Get Set to Read; Toddler Art Club; Slightly Spooky Storeytime; Afterschool at the Library for “Applesauce Time” and making “Indian corn jewelry.” Call your local library for dates and times.

There’s another side to after-school activities, one that’s increasingly important in the national conversation: academic achievement. Call it learning. Call it survival.

In “The Smartest Kids in the World And How They Got That Way,” (Simon and Schuster), Amanda Ripley writes about the children of Poland who have the highest international test-scores, following the formula common to South Korea and Finland; in Finland speaking four or five languages is not uncommon. Ripley discovers a marked difference between schools in top-performing countries and those in the United States. In many American schools, she observes, “sports are the core culture.” In Poland, “sports simply did not figure into the school day; why would they? Plenty of kids played pickup soccer or basketball after school, but there was no confusion about what school was for -- or what mattered to kids’ life chances.”

P.S. If I’ve left anyone out, please let me know and I’ll make up for it in another column.

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