Summer camp is often a place where young people go to unwind after the long school year and have some fun. But for those who attended the Service Academy for Youth camp in Sherman, there was just as much community service to be had as there was fun.
The three-day camp sent more than 80 young campers turned public servants out into various areas of Sherman for a handful of different projects. This year’s work list included assisting the city workers with the installation of the new disc golf course at Pecan Grove Park, cleaning up graffiti and applying a fresh coat of paint on the Belden Street Montessori School.
“We just want them to know that you do have to help out other people,” SAY Camp Director Lauren Towles said. “Things don’t just happen. You might see that a building got painted, but without work like this, you don’t realize all that really goes into it.”
With the labor-intensive projects all conducted outside under the hot summer sun, Towles said the campers have been rewarded with fun activities and treats, including a visit to one of Lake Texoma’s private beaches, catered meals and even a cool cone from an ice cream truck.
“Our motto this year is work hard, play harder, so — as you can tell — we’ve tried really hard to make it fun,” Towles said. “The work is the biggest part of our camp and it’s how we get our sponsorships, but after the kids work hard out in the heat like this, we really try to give them a break and play around.”
Campers focused their efforts on sprucing up the Belden Street Montessori School on Thursday by applying a fresh coat of blue paint to the campus’ exterior, fixing up playground equipment and laying gravel. Executive Director Allison West said her school was badly in need of the cosmetic fixes and was all the more thankful for the SAY campers’ help because the projects couldn’t have been funded otherwise.
“We’ve had the front of the school painted since October, but we’ve needed a lot of other stuff done,” West said. “It wasn’t really in the budget this year to have someone come out and do it, so having the camp here to help us is awesome.”
And the school administrators weren’t the only ones who thought the work going on Thursday was great.
“Our little kids have seen them working and they love it,” West said. “They see them serving and, hopefully, they’ll want to do it too when they get a little bit older.”
Camper Starr Brown, 17, said she joined the camp this summer because it beat the monotony of hanging around the house and the projects gave her a sense of pride.
“I wanted to help the community and, you know, it’s better than sitting at home and watching TV all day,” she said. “I would rather get out and do something good, so I could walk past wherever we’ve gone and say to myself ‘I helped do that.’”
As she took a break in the shade and enjoyed a snow cone with her fellow campers, Brown said the SAY camp is hard work. But she added that all that work pays off when she and other campers take a step back and see the final product.
“The hardest part, for sure, is being out in the sun,” Brown said. “The greatest part is just seeing how the projects look after all the work that you’ve done.”