Campers learn, train on campus

Evan Belfiore

Day and athletic student camps give youngsters a look at college life

Eight-year-old Nicole Iden, left, and Hannah Mazur, right, check out a caterpillar they found during outside activities at an activity camp held on Kent State’s campus.

Credit: Beth Rankin

While the residence halls may not be filled with college students, young student-athlete camps are keeping the Honors Plaza beds warm, and Fletcher Hall lounge is bustling with local day camp children.

These children are invading campus for Kent State for Kids and sports training camps.

The university hosts hockey, cheerleading, band and other sports camps during summer break. These training camps provide opportunities for children to improve their athletic skills.

The USA Hockey Camp selects qualified junior high students in the Midwest region, Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana and Kentucky.

“They put you to a test of goals,” said second-year camper Barrett Kaib, 12, of Pittsburgh, “and hopefully you get through.”

The camp is for players who were recommended by individual team coaches. Coaches and trainers work with these athletes each day on the ice. Teams of campers compete against each other in addition to working on skills.

“They push you to do your best,” said Ian Lodin, 11, from Indianapolis.

Players do a variety of drills to develop their abilities. They do stick handling, skating, strengthening and conditioning exercises, said Indianapolis resident Mason Jobst, 11.

In addition to the hard work and training, there are daily activities for the campers at places like the Student Recreation and Wellness Center and the Eastway Center Bowling Alley.

“It’s great because, even if we work hard early in the day, there’s something fun to look forward to,” said 11-year-old Clayton Thomas of Columbus.

The players also enjoy being in the residence halls.

“I met a lot of kids and made a lot of friends,” said Jobst.

Residence hall comforts factor into campers’ enjoyment.

“I’m glad they had air conditioning,” said Lodin. “The last camp didn’t.”

Bill Switaj, manager of the Ice Arena, said he wants the kids to learn, but also have fun. With about 900 boys and girls at hockey camps throughout the summer, he said he thinks the camps help promote Kent State.

“They’re here a week or couple of days living in the dorms, eating the food, seeing how nice the campus is. It’s great public relations,” said Switaj.

Sports camps are not the only camps at Kent State. The day camp, Kent State for Kids and TREK, gives children a chance to learn and to have fun while school is out. The program offers classes from basketball to jewelry making to foreign languages.

“As opposed to most day camps where you do a little arts and crafts or sports, here you get the chance to choose your classes,” said Jane Jindra-Parman, director of summer programs.

The children take advantage of their options when picking classes.

Eleven-year-old Rootstown resident Connor Lynch prefers to take the sports classes.

“I don’t really like to think in the summer,” said Lynch. “You get into a math class and go ‘what am I doing?’ I shouldn’t be thinking.”

Becky Calvin, 14, of Akron, enjoys taking educational classes as well as fun classes. She likes to take the French class in the summer to help refresh her memory for the fall.

The children in the camp range from first grade to eighth grade students. Six-year-old Mykenzie Atherton from Kent is in her first year of Kent State for Kids.

“I like Pretty, Pretty Princess,” said Atherton. “We make jewelry.”

But there is more to Kent State for Kids than just the classes. Campers make friends and also are exposed to children from different races and with disabilities.

“You can talk to them and see how their culture is different from ours,” said Calvin.

Kent State for Kids prepares its campers for dealing with diversity in the future.

“After being around kids with disabilities or different races, the kids adapt really well to each other,” said Jindra-Parman. “Once they are here they’ll just blend in together. They don’t distinguish between each other.”

Contact general assignment reporter Evan Belfiore at [email protected].