Camp Skillz: Antioch - A Summer Review

Zach Hartnell was one of our devoted Camp Skillz counselors. Below, he guides students in making their own guitars out of wooden cigar boxes, wood, and strings. 

Nob Hill Apartments (aka Nob Hill Villa) is located in Antioch, TN, off the I-24 interstate, around 30 minutes from our property in Hopewell. Our relationship with Nob Hill goes back several years; when with the help of summer volunteers, we ran week-long camps for the children who lived there. The turnout of these camps was high, and the children’s parents expressed their continual gratitude for the camps. So even though we lessened our involvement at the apartments, our concern for Nob Hill remained.

For the past few years, we’ve been putting on Camp Skillz in Old Hickory. We’ve learned a lot through planning, organizing, and running the camp. We’ve also seen the great benefit that summer programming has been to the kids who have participated. They both personally enjoy the experience -- and kids really do love Camp Skillz -- and we’ve seen the development that kids undergo when they have the opportunity to use their minds throughout the summer. As we prepared for another summer of Camp Skillz, we decided to expand it in order to offer the same dynamic programming to kids who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity.  Nob Hill came to mind, and so Camp Skillz: Antioch began.

Summer programming is important in places like Hopewell and Nob Hill, because children have little access to enriching activities during the summer months. Talking with mothers at Nob Hill, many of them expressed that they didn’t want their child to sit in front of a TV all day, but that there was minimal alternatives available. Camp Skillz: Antioch became that alternative.

Campers got to participate in activities like Zumba and songwriting, and even got a chance to visit a music studio, where they recorded a song together!

Camp Skillz: Antioch ran for eight weeks, Tuesday through Friday 10:00a - 3:00p. An average day looked something like this: around 35 kids arrived at camp, usually excitedly congregating around the clubhouse about 30 minutes prior to the start time. The opening session was a full-energy greeting, often including songs and performances, where the staff would share and introduce the “theme of the week”--things like honesty, perseverance, creativity and kindness. 

After the opening session, activities and workshops began. An important facet of Camp Skillz programming is the emphasis on skills development. The goal is more than simple entertainment; It’s to offer activities that will develop cognitive, kinesthetic, and social skills. For instance, some of the older campers worked on turning donated wooden cigar boxes into guitars. It was a multi-step project that required the campers to learn a lot of different skills, both the tangible skills--measuring, cutting, tool safety, etc. -- and the less tangible skills -- patience, perseverance, cooperation, etc. All this was accomplished through a project that was really fun, interesting, and just plain cool. These activities gave a necessary jolt to the summer brain.

Camp Skillz offered a lot of interesting projects and activities. Campers played sports, wrote songs, learned dances, put on dramas, made a variety of crafts, did science experiments, learned car mechanics and maintenance, and a lot more. It was a full summer.

Rafael Reyes (above) directed Camp Skillz: Antioch, and did a wonderful job supported by a consistent team from G.O.D. Int'l. Volunteers fulfilled many of the remaining positions. Together, the team helped kids have an awesome time!

It wasn’t just about projects and programs, though. Camp Skillz: Antioch staff worked hard, spending hours planning and praying, to create an environment where the campers were valued and loved. This is the most important part of the camp, and it’s the hardest to quantify or convey. So, maybe I can invoke the hazy notion of intuitive sense -- the camp felt welcoming and caring. You could sense it in the way kids came in, the way they hung around after camp was over, the way they freely interacted with each other and the staff, and how excited they were for each new day to begin.

The camp was directed by Rafael Reyes, who had worked for several years at a Progreso Community Center in Antioch, so he had a lot of experience organizing programs. Rafa -- even while acting in Alien: The Musical -- did a great job organizing the camp and creating the experience. He was joined by several other people in our organization: Rachel Webb, Zach Hartnell, Keith Turner, along with many others who helped with specific projects.

Camp Skillz was a great success. We were able to extend the model of Camp Skillz to people that we care deeply about, offering children a chance to grow and develop during the summer months.