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Summer programs, keeping kids out of trouble

ESCAMBIA COUNTY - Earlier this spring, Escambia County Commissioner Lumon said he wanted to put extra focus on summer programs this year to keep kids out of trouble and off the streets.

This summer, Escambia County launched its "Play, Learn, and Grow" summer feeding program and it's in full swing.

From 7 in the morning til' about 6 in the evening, the Marie Young Community Center in Wedgewood is bustling.

Up to 150 kids, ages 5 to 14 participate in activities that focus on education, leadership, social skills and physical activity.

Each week has a theme to wrap around the kid's learning.
This week it's about Independence Day.
Later the camp will focus on careers where people from various professions will come in.

"They can talk to the kids about career choices for the future, and we're also getting younger kids thinking about what they want to do in the future" said Shurlitha Jones, Community Center Coordinator.

The Play, Learn and Grow program is run in 4 Escambia County Community Centers.
The county has also partnered with Bay Area Food Bank which helps provide lunches.
Demand has been so high for the free summer program; some children had to be placed on waiting lists.

"We actually had to cut the number off once we got to capacity when we had good children to adult ratio" said Marilyn Wesley, Escambia County Community Affairs.

It's important for the staff to get to know the kids personally.
So they make a concerted effort to do so.

"We had them wear name tags so we know their names.  As they progress in the program we take the name tags off because we want them to feel as if she knows me" said Jones.

The success of the Play, Learn, and Grow summer program has county officials considering expanding it year-round.

"Once we get through with the summer and summer programs are done, we're going to focus on some after school kind of things" said Wesley.

For those interested in learning more about the county's free summer program follow this link.