Learning everything from math, science and English to martial arts, swimming and tennis, 231 campers find daily fun and education at Trojan Kids Camp, which runs until July 27 on the University Park Campus (UPC).
Promoting a healthy and active lifestyle, Trojan Kids Camp (formerly federally funded and known as the National Youth Sports Program) hosts economically disadvantaged students, ages 9 to 11, who attend schools near UPC. Partially supported by the USC Neighborhood Outreach Program and Recreational Sports, the camp costs $200 per camper with vouchers available.
“This year, we added an education component,” said Arvin Varma, project administrator for Youth Programs and associate director for Recreational Sports. “The kids are excited about the classes. In math, they might have an assignment like determining the percentage of free throws a person made in basketball; in English, the kids might get a topic like sports and have to talk in front of the group about it.”
Throughout the day, groups of 15 to 18 campers who are divided by age rotate through five different sports and classes with two snack breaks and a lunch break at Tommy’s Place. Sports include football, soccer, basketball, kickball, volleyball, dance and “fit skillastics,” a new, competitive event that combines board games with fitness exercises.
“One of the counselors saw something similar at a fitness conference, and it sounded interesting. So we decided to modify it and try it here,” said Varma, who likes to add new elements to the camp each year. “The kids seem to enjoy it.”
Camp math specialist Rulywndra Walker, who teaches at Intensive Learning Center in Bellflower, Calif., joined the staff of certified teachers to help kids “have fun with math.”
“We do some team-building time,” she said. “I try to switch it so they are moving from one activity to another to keep them alert and on their toes. The kids like it. When they are happy, I am happy.”
Counselors at the camp, which is now in its 47th year, are often former campers. Football specialist Fabrizzio Perez, 21, attended camp with his brother, Paul, who is also a counselor, from ages 10 to 14.
“When I was a kid, I used to have so much fun at this camp, so I just want the kids to have the same experience I had,” Perez said. “Seeing the kids so excited is really cool. All the kids know me, and every time they see me they ask me, ‘When are we going to come have football
In addition, campers go on weekly field trips, which include attending a Los Angeles Sparks basketball game, visiting the California Science Center or the Natural History Museum, and viewing a professional tennis tournament at UCLA.
Fresh off a field trip to the California Science Center, a group of 10-year-old campers each spoke for two minutes in front of their English class about what they learned. All hands went up when the instructor asked for volunteers. Gavin discussed ecosystems. Melina talked about bullfrog eggs.
Camper Kelly Castillo, 10, who is attending for a second year, likes that “we get to do a bunch of activities.”
“My favorite is martial arts because, I remember it from last year, and the teacher really taught us a lot,” she said. “We have a bunch of fun. They have taught us a lot. I really like this camp because they teach us very well. They have swimming, and we have our teachers teach us how to dive in and hold our breath and to not be scared.”
For Varma, the best part of the camp is “watching the kids having fun.” He added, “When we first told people about the education part, the parents were thrilled, but the kids booed. Then I had a dad tell me his kid came home and said the best part was visiting the science museum. It is a great feeling. What we want for the kids is to learn and achieve.”