By: Tawana Holly
It’s been a staple in the Detroit community, and the Eastside Community Network — formerly the Warren/Conner Development Coalition — is still going strong in its 30th year, offering its Youth on the Edge of Greatness summer program.
The free 6-week summer camp runs June 27 through August 3, and is open to Detroit residents ages 11-14.
“What we are doing this year is a daily summer camp that’s jam-packed with life skills, activities, entrepreneurship activities, as well as linking young people to mentors in various fields,” says Orlando Bailey, the Community Engagement Manager for ECN.
Learning to be leaders, running a business, mentorship, taking field trips and dozens more activities are all part of the summer program. Bailey says a main component of the program is “exposure,” or opening kids up to some things they may not have had the chance to previously experience.
“Every single week we take the young people on a field trip and we expose them to things that they may not have seen before or things they have seen before,” says Bailey. “The goal behind exposure, as we like to say, is you can’t dream about anything new, you can’t dream about where you want to be, unless you’ve been exposed to it.”
One such unique activity, says Bailey, is the opportunity for the children to learn from the minority-owned computer programming company called Journey Coding. He says they’re excited for the kids to learn more about that particular line of work. Another opportunity for the program participants is learning marketable business skills that they can use immediately in the real world through a flower business. According to Bailey, through program sponsors, the camp has been able to set up a fresh-cut flower garden on Mack Avenue in Detroit. He says, this year, the young people will be able to manage and sell flowers from that garden at area farmers markets. He says the students will then decide how to manage the profits.
Now with what seems to be nearly weekly reports of violent crimes against children in Detroit, Bailey says there’s a great need in every area of the city for such programs.
“What we aim to do is show youth the alternate from what some of them, not all of them, see everyday. Some of them see crime, some them see vacant and open, dangerous structures; what we want to do is expose them to things that they may have never been exposed to, so that they can dream bigger,” says Bailey.
He continues, saying, “One, we provide a safe space; and, two, we provide an escape. Some young people really just need an escape, a place where they can come and be a kid amongst their friends and amongst their peers, and we provide that safe space. We provide them the space to make mistakes, to learn and to grow.”
There is a rolling application process for the summer camp, so those who want to participate can apply throughout the duration of the program. The camp will be held at the old Bellevue Elementary School, located at 1501 Canton Street, in Detroit. You can register your child by calling 313-331-3499 or 313-571-2800, or visiting www.ecn-detroit.org.