AUBURN, Maine — In his sixth week at summer camp, Clayton Carver, 13, of Auburn has learned what college tuition is, what different colleges exist and where he wants to go.
“Saint Anselm’s,” he said. “It seemed like a really good place. It stood out.”
Carver is attending a summer camp in its pilot year: Great Futures Road Trip, where the emphasis is on college, careers and community service, said Nick Tifft, youth resource coordinator for the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Maine Auburn/Lewiston Clubhouse.
Campers do the usual summer fun activities like going to parks and swimming. They’re also being shown opportunities that await them if they work hard in high school and start to plan for college while they’re eighth- or ninth-graders.
“We’re hoping they gain more of a vision to what they want to do and go back to school in the fall with a better focus,” Tifft said.
On Thursday, campers ages 12 to 15 toured the Auburn Police Station to learn about police work. On Friday, they met with Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert and learned about government.
Campers have visited the University of Maine, Central Maine Community College, Bowdoin College, and Plymouth State and Saint Anselm in New Hampshire. On Monday they’re going to Harvard in Cambridge, Mass.
In addition to the Auburn Police Department and Lewiston City Hall, their career visits have included a bakery, a clothing store, a radio station and a restaurant.
Last month, campers went to the U.S. District Court in Portland to meet a district judge and court lawyers after sitting in on a case.
They also met in June with park rangers at Cobscook Bay State Park and talked about careers as rangers and game wardens.
For community service they’ve helped clean the yards of elders, played games with d’Youville Pavilion residents and helped park rangers stain picnic tables.
“It’s so much fun. It doesn’t feel like community service,” said Anita Destrini, 15, of Mechanic Falls, who’s interested in becoming a psychiatrist. The camp gives “more of a reality” of life after high school, “because I’m going to be going to college very soon.”
Every summer Katie Ferrara, 12, said she does the usual like go to the beach.
“This is way different,” Ferrara said. “You get to go to colleges, learn about what you want to do when you’re older, do community service and give back.”
While meeting with campers Friday, Gilbert told them about how he became police chief and mayor, and encouraged them to work hard in school.
He’s a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group concerned about keeping guns out of illegal hands, and Mayors for Peace, an international group opposed to nuclear weapons. So is Bernard Lown, Gilbert said, telling campers about the 1938 Lewiston High School graduate who went on to become a cardiologist, developed the defibrillator, won a Nobel Peace Price, and has a Lewiston-Auburn bridge named in his honor.
At age 90, Lown remains a sharp, “amazing man,” who went to school in Lewiston. “That could happen with you guys,” Gilbert said.
A parent of one camper said she’s thrilled what how her son is responding to the Great Futures Road Trip.
Andrea Emch of Lewiston said the camp has given her son, Christian O’Brien, 13, “a sense of belonging he’s been lacking. He’s passionate about community service they’ve been doing,” she said.
Since visiting colleges “his drive for higher education is off the charts,” she said. “He’s even started, on his own, asking questions about what classes you have to take to go to college.”
This summer the camp was limited to 11 because that’s how many the club van could transport, Tifft said. The Boys and Girls Club hopes to expand the program next summer, he said.
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