Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Gearing up for summer

Teenagers From Across the Nation Attend Weeklong “Reality Camps’’ at Stewpot

Middle-class students from as far away as Arkansas are scheduled to get a dose of urban reality this summer as they commit for one-week stints working as camp counselors with homeless and at-risk children.  The Stewpot is pleased to announce the following groups have enrolled for the mission week this summer 2012: Westside Baptist Church - Lewisville, First Presbyterian Church - Harrison AR, Cochran Chapel United Methodist Church - Tulsa OK, Chinese Bible Church - Richardson, First Presbyterian Church - Dallas, First Presbyterian Church - Allen, First Presbyterian Church - Duncanville, and First Presbyterian Church - Waco. 

Each week, a new crew of high school students arrives with adult sponsors, often from a church youth group. They sleep at First Presbyterian Church of Dallas and follow an established curriculum geared to help them think and learn about the experience.

The Stewpot’s Summer Visiting Youth program , scheduled to begin June 10 has multiple benefits: Teens serve as mentors to young, inner-city campers while also gaining a deeper understanding of urban problems, such as homelessness and poverty.

The program gives the teenagers a unique “urban wilderness’’ experience while also providing critical staff support at the eight-week summer camp run by The Stewpot, which is First Presbyterian Church’s community ministries program.

“Although we originally launched the summer camp to benefit children who live in homeless shelters and the City Park neighborhood, we later realized that we had a chance to provide middle class kids with something meaningful, too,’’ said the Rev. Bruce Buchanan, First Presbyterian’s associate pastor.

In this case, it’s a chance for suburban teens to spend a week in downtown Dallas, serving a cafeteria-style lunch to homeless adults at The Stewpot and working with kids that live in or near downtown shelters.

At night, the visiting youth volunteer at Dallas agencies that serve domestic violence victims, senior citizens and other at-risk groups. Once a week, they are invited to swimming parties at church members’ homes to relax and talk about what they have seen.

The “Summer Visiting Youth” program bolsters the Stewpot’s year-round efforts to support school age homeless and at-risk youth.

During the school year, the Stewpot operates a Saturday School for children who attend Dallas’ City Park Elementary School, which serves kids who live in homeless shelters, or in the low-income neighborhood south of downtown.

The young students get a nourishing meal, as well as access to games, a gymnasium, a computer lab, arts and crafts and reading help. The program is offered during all school breaks, as well as on Saturdays. During the summer, the same children are eligible to attend an eight-week summer camp.

For older students, the Stewpot operates a Venturing Crew of structured activities for eight summer weeks. Students are offered field trips, ROPES courses, camp outs and visits to college campuses. The  program is designed to offer positive alternatives to teenagers exposed to gangs and drugs.  Those who complete the program and go to college are eligible for Community Ministries Scholarships of $1,000 per semester. Currently 45 students are on scholarship.  

The last week (July 29-August 3) of the Summer Visiting Youth program is available. If you are interested in more information, please email Suzanne Dwight

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