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Trojan Kids Camp offers summer fun

Two boys take part in football drills during Trojan Kids Camp. (USC Photo/Lillian Insalata)

Early on a Friday morning, 9-year-old Miguel Medina and his teammates lined up for football drills on Cromwell Field. Displaying speed and agility, the youngster was making plays, as well as friends, in the Trojan Kids Camp summer program.

“I’ll probably keep coming every year. It’s a lot of fun,” said Miguel, who is attending the camp for the first time.

Trojan Kids Camp is a sports and educational program for economically disadvantaged children, ages 9 to 15, who attend schools near the University Park Campus. The monthlong camp is funded by USC Recreational Sports, a grant from USC Neighborhood Outreach and registration fees.

Campers participate in a variety of sports, including tennis, ultimate Frisbee, martial arts and swimming, and they take educational classes in math and nutrition. They also go on field trips to the beach, a Los Angeles Sparks basketball game and to see the Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center.

“Some kids have never participated in certain things, so this gives them an eye-opening experience,” said Cynthia Brass, camp coordinator and administrative assistant for Recreational Sports. “For the educational part, we try to make it sports related and interesting so they don’t feel like they’re stuck in school.”

Brass, who purchases hundreds of balls and snacks by the carload, said planning for the camp is a yearlong process. The staff arrives at 7 a.m. to fill up water coolers and deliver them to outdoor sports areas, check equipment, reload medical bags with bandages and wipes, and launder loaner swimsuits and towels.

The 225 campers, divided into small groups by age, rotate through five periods each day with snack breaks and lunch. A team of 30 camp counselors and sports specialists leads the classes and motivates the youngsters to get involved. As an incentive, children who are enthusiastic about participating in each activity win Trojan Bucks, which they can spend at a camp store.

”It’s comeback time,” yelled first-time camp counselor Kimberly Willis as she played ultimate Frisbee with a group of campers. She praised the children for making good catches and throws.

“If I see them standing off to the side, I try to get them motivated,” said Willis, a USC sophomore premed major. “I get excited easily so I think it rubs off on them.”

In addition to adding ultimate Frisbee to the sports lineup this summer, Arvin Varma, camp project administrator and associate director of Recreational Sports, added a class about healthy eating habits.

“We had a nutritionist come in. She’s talked to the kids about proper eating habits, diet, what’s good and what’s not, and how to read food labels,” Varma said. “I’m hoping we can get them on the right start.”

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