Setting a good examplePublished 8:06am Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Middle school students serve as mentors at Niles’ Summer My Way camp
More than two dozen local middle school students are taking on a role many of them have never had the opportunity to tackle before — being mentors for the younger kids in the Summer My Way summer camp.
One of those young mentors is Kaylen Thompson, who will be attending seventh grade at Ring Lardner Middle School in the fall.
Initially, Thompson said she was not thrilled when her mother signed her up to be a mentor at the camp.
That changed in the second day.
“That’s when I thought that I really like it here,” she said, adding that her favorite part is playing games and bonding with the children she mentors.
“It’s a lot more fun that I thought it would be.”
Kirsten Henry, an employee of the Niles-Buchanan YMCA that is helping lead the mentors, said there are 30 mentors in the program from grades six through nine. Combined, they perform about 100 hours of volunteer work each week.
Their main responsibility, she said, is to help camp assistants and leaders keep the young campers under control while encouraging them to have fun.
“They are extremely important to what we are doing here,” Henry said. “Some of the classrooms have up to 60 kids in them, so we need their help. Because they are close in age, they build relationships with the kids and become another trusted person the kids can talk to.”
Henry said the mentors are gaining valuable skills that could springboard them into getting paid positions with the camp in the future. For instance, the camp employs older high school students to act as camp assistants.
“It is something they may be interested in,” she said.
Mentor Gavin Herbert said he is looking forward to coming back as a mentor next year.
“I’m definitely going to do it again,” he said. “Helping the kids is my favorite part.”
Herbert will be a seventh grader at Edwardsburg next year.
Approximately 350 kids grades kindergarten through fifth are participating in the Summer My Way camp, which is offered free to students in Niles Community Schools.
It is a collaboration between the Berrien County 4H, the City of Niles, Four Flags Chamber of Commerce, Niles Education Foundation, Lake Michigan College, Lakeland Health Care, Niles-Buchanan YMCA, Niles Community Schools and Niles District Library.