Terry Landeros, recreation specialist for the city of Temple, is a little out of breath. She’s just finished working out with a trainer and the seven girls age 10-12 enrolled in Glam Camp, a new program that’s part of Temple’s abundant summer camp offerings.
“They’ve learned about healthy eating, then we began exercising,” Landeros said. But it’s not all just about the campers: “Tomorrow is community service day. We’ll go to Temple Living Center and the girls will paint fingernails for the senior ladies,” she said. The campers are laughing, singing and joking with each other as the next phase of Wednesday’s busy morning begins: a mentoring/counseling session. There is an unmistakable feeling of enthusiasm inside the Gober Party House.
At least nine different youth “camps” have taken place at Gober this summer. It’s a hard-to-miss yellow brick structure on West Avenue H in Temple with high ceilings and a floor a ballet dancer could covet: blonde oak planks on a pier and beam foundation for ideal deflection. All the better for the impromptu cartwheels, round-offs and other high-spirited gymnastic displays the girls are tirelessly performing. At last, though, the Glam Campers are seated and another strong point of the program, an outstanding staff/camper ratio, is obvious.
Three counselors affiliated with Starry, a professional counseling organization, will work with the campers for the next hour, which brings the total of staff members to six — nearly a one-to-one ratio. Kymmi Lowe, of Temple, is a staff counselor with Starry; Sydney Novoa and Joanna May, both from Killeen, are graduate student interns. The counselors explain that their efforts are funded by a grant from the state and that they work with coed groups and younger children, as well.
The campers listen and fill out a “circle of closeness,” which will diagram the primary relationships in their lives. A daily journal has been started and the entries studied to provide insight regarding interpersonal relationships as well as inner feelings and attitudes.
Then it’s time to work on a team-building exercise out on the hardwood floor. As the girls repeat the cross-the-river task using foam pads as “rocks” with which to gain a footing, there is a marked improvement each time the activity is repeated.
After about 25 minutes of the team-building workout, all campers gather again at work tables. It’s almost noon now, and moms have started arriving to pick up their daughters. All that’s left is to complete the final paperwork. Asked to list what they’ve learned on this day, what it means and how they’ll apply it, most of the girls immediately start writing. But one tween looks up from the assignment with a perplexed expression.
One of the counselors asks what’s wrong and the camper thinks a moment, then says, “Nothing. I’ve learned that this is a lot better than school.”