Camp prevents 'brain drain' in local students

Children and teenagers participating in the Summer Food and Fun Project will be diligently preventing “brain drain” this summer by learning healthy eating and lifestyle habits.

The summer enrichment program, which provides free meals to participants, will be held at the McDonald Hughes Community Center, operating from Tuesday to Thursday, 9-11 a.m.

The six-week program, which started earlier this month and ends in mid-July, stems from the State Perinatal Program, initially implemented to decrease infant morbidity and mortality, said Sharon Bradford, Region Two perinatal director for the Alabama Department of Public Health.

“The program encourages cooperative relationships among healthcare providers and institutions to ensure medically effective and cost efficient perinatal care and to raise awareness regarding infant morbidity and mortality,” Bradford said.

Rashad Cole, University of Alabama graduate student and director of the Summer Food and Fun Project, said this program is not a typical summer camp.

During summer vacation, most students forget a large portion of what they learned during the school year, Cole said.

“Our goal is to reduce the amount of students that go back to school with brain drain,” he said. “We want them to go back to school and be able to use what they learn here.”

The Summer Food and Fun Project, sponsored by the Region Two Perinatal Community Action Team, offers arts and crafts, wellness and life skills, reading and creative writing to youth between the ages of three and 18. Financial planning is also offered to the teenagers.

“This summer we had a church to implement their summer program in with ours, so now the youth in their summer program come here,” Cole said. “It has been a great accomplishment.”

According to Cole, several younger kids are participating in the program, but there are only five teenagers.

“I want to get the word out to older kids,” Cole said. “It is not good for teenagers to have too much idle time on their hands.”

Alexus Brown, 14, said she enjoys attending the program because it is fun and gives her an opportunity to learn new things.

“This is a good use of my time,” she said. “If I wasn’t coming here, I would probably be at home sleeping.”

Talil Brown, 16, said the only thing he doesn’t like about the program is having to wake up early in the morning to attend.

Cole believes his work with the program has deepened his love of educating.

“This experience has enhanced my desire and hunger to educate younger generations,” Cole said.

Although the work can be overwhelming, it is Bradford’s empathy for others that aides her, she said.

“My challenge is to maintain resilience so that I can keep doing the work with care,” she said.

Volunteers, donations, water and healthy snacks are also needed. The Summer Food and Fun Project is free for all participants, and it is not too late to register. For more information, contact Sharon Bradford at (205) 750-5138.

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