Sometimes positive local change is sparked by programs offered to youth.
Nine-year-old Darnell Brown was one of 40 campers and 10 junior counselors who enjoyed Woodside Garden Apartments’ Summer Enrichment Camp, located in Annapolis, Maryland. The affordable apartment community on 711 Newtowne Drive is not located far from Truxton Park where fun awaits families.
But every child may not be able to routinely travel to parks or pursue resources outside of their neighborhoods with ease. Darnell, a camper of two years, remarked that he enjoyed playing basketball, attending field trips and working in the garden amongst tomatoes, eggplants, red cabbage, strawberries and other fruits and vegetables. Helping to water plants was another activity that Darnell had a chance to experience in his very own community.
“We have two garden spaces. The vegetable garden is located behind Building 701, closest to the basketball court. “The butterfly garden [with flowers that attract butterflies] is located behind building 710,” Rita Dorsey Washington, resident services coordinator at Woodside Gardens Apartments said.
Dorsey Washington also served as the camp’s program manager.
She added, “the children and counselors transformed a former playground space that was overrun by weeds and trash into a beautiful butterfly garden.”
Cutting down weeds and preparing the ground with fresh soil and mulch were also required steps to start the outdoor project. After six weeks of summer enrichment, rewards were harvested during the last two of them. Adults are still harvesting items from the garden.
“The children worked in the garden every morning as part of camp activities. Adults care for it on the weekends,” Dorsey Washington said. “Gardening has brought a routine for children. They look forward to harvesting from their diligent labor.”
Dorsey Washington explained that Woodside Summer Enrichment is one of the programs offered to residents.
“This is the second year Woodside Gardens has offered a Summer Enrichment Program,” Dorsey Washington said. “The Summer Enrichment Camp served youth ages four to 13 [years old].”
Campers also spent a day at Tanglewood Community Park in Clinton, Maryland. They met Greg Lea, who is an African American cowboy. Riding horses was also a part of the exciting outing. Another time, Captain Aaron Edwards from the local fire department visited to teach the children and counselors hands-on CPR. Campers took a dip in a pool. Camp was activity-packed and memorable.
Deonte Ward, a contractor for Superior Future and Newtowne Community Development Corporation (NCDC), explained that the camp was offered from July 10, 2023 – August 18, 2023. He served as the program director and lead mentor, while working for a couple of nonprofits as a contractor. He often partners with nonprofits through contracts. Programs such as Woodside Garden Apartments’ Summer Enrichment Camp are funded through fundraising, grants, sponsorship and donations.
Superior Future, a 501(c)(3) organization was founded by Harold Lloyd in 2019. The then 21-year-old college student who grew up in multiple low-income communities in Annapolis “aspires to bring skills-based educational and recreational programs to all communities suffering from poverty and lack of opportunities,” per information provided on the nonprofit’s website.
Lloyd, an alumnus of Frostburg University is igniting change in Annapolis through collaboration and reaching back to help children who may not otherwise have had chances to experience enrichment activities in their own neighborhoods. Keanuú Smith-Brown, a first-generation college graduate and teacher, helps with curriculum. Ward founded a program called B.L.A.C.K. Excel. Through it, he partners as a change agent with nonprofits such as Superior Future. Born and raised in Annapolis, Ward is widely known for his community leadership and creating curriculums for nonprofits that integrate supporting youth and families through activities. Ward explained that the summer camp was offered in Woodside Gardens and Annapolis Gardens in Annapolis. Other organizations, such as NCDC, Annapolis Allstars and The Annapolis & Anne Arundel County Scholarship Trust are among additional partners who support youth in Annapolis’ low-income communities.
Lending a hand in neighborhoods can greatly benefit youth while teaching them to take pride in where they live and learn skills that last a lifetime.
“Our goal for gardening is to help continue teaching self-sufficiency, teach about healthy eating and reduce sicknesses by providing fresh food and awareness to dietary concerns,” Ward said. “We’re working towards more fundamental programs that’s after school and on the weekend. These programs help improve core learning skills. Giving your time is one of the most important and rewarding ways to help our organizations. Children need additional reading, writing and math time.”
Ward also said that programs benefit young people who range from five to 22 years old. Visit www.superiorfutureinc.org for more information about Superior Future.