By Camm Ashford and Yolanda Putman
The Mary Walker Historical and Educational Foundation’s Christian and work-based Camp REACH ended last Thursday at a ceremony held at Hope City Church, 7 North Tuxedo Ave.
REACH is an acronym for Respect, Earn, Achieve, Citizenship, and Hard Work.
The enrichment summer camp offered nearly 40 rising 9th-12th graders instruction in leadership, basic life and work skills, vocational skills (house painting), music and art, journalism, and transportation logistics through a partnership with Network Transport in East Brainerd.
Students were paid a weekly stipend every week for six weeks if they successfully completed all assignments.
“You are witnessing greatness here, and it’s a blessing to be a part of these young people’s lives,” Camp REACH Executive Director Lurone “Coach” Jennings told the 100 or so people attending the noon event.
“You all may have been hearing a lot lately about youth gun violence. Well, this is how we prevent that kind of involvement. We give our children positive, encouraging things to do. We reward them and recognize their gifts and talents to help them see that you don’t have to go down the wrong road to be successful and to earn money and those kinds of things, and to take people along with you. So this is our reaction and answer.”
Student Timothy Rice, who attended Camp REACH last summer as well as this year, offered his fellow campers’ words of encouragement.
“During the last six weeks, we learned a lot,” he said. “Not just about reading and writing, but about life. Now comes the big question of how do we apply all that we’ve learned. That’s a question you must answer for yourself. But I believe in you, and I know that you all are capable. Each and every one of you has a chance to be special and to do something great in life. So go on and be great, and put God first.”
Also on program were Jamison Malone who led the Lord’s Prayer and Aaron Tarver who provided the Bible verse Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…”
Journalist instructor Yolanda Putman noted that on Day One of the camp, 52% of the students participating in the Lexia Reading program performed at a foundational level, 45% at an intermediate level and only 3% at an advanced level. However, by the end of camp, students reading at an intermediate level had risen from 45% to 68%, and those reading at an advanced level had nearly tripled from 3% to 11%.
Students receiving Chattanooga Legends Awards: Willie Kitchens Music Award, James Myers; Reggie White Award, Timothy Rice; Mary Walker Award, Ariel Kelly (Camp REACH Spelling Bee Winner); John P. Franklin Sr. Top Earner Award, Amare Starling; The Rev. J. Lloyd Edwards Jr. Hard Work Award, Aaron Tarver; and the John L. Edwards III Citizenship Award, Jamison Malone.
Published Writers for the Chattanooga News Chronicle recognized were: JaMichael Brown; Ashely Hampton; Pierre Kelly; Jaelyn Moon; JaMaya Rogan; and Aaron Tarver.
Art awards: 1st place Butterfly, LaToria Battle; and 2nd place Butterfly, Pierre Kelly. First place Lion, Destiny Richardson; and 2nd place Lion, Aaron Tarver.
Gold Medal Winners who exemplified cooperation and a good attitude were: J’vyon Bonds; TayVeon Bonds; Jason Burns; Jameel Colvin; Sierra Crawford; Alan Duckett; Nyla Halfacre; Elijah Jones; Brie McGlone; Michael McKibben; Arion Ray; Ta’Nia Simpson; Meziah Warren; and KenZhia Whitaker.
Timiethea Delaney, renowned vocalist, songwriter and entertainer and Willie Kitchens, former lead vocalist for the Grammy award-winning Impressions, established and coached the Mary Walker Foundation Camp REACH 2022 Choir. The choir sang “Thank you” and “See You Again” during last Thursday’s program.
Coach Jennings recognized his camp staff: Gary Cogar, Timiethea Delaney, Willie Kitchens, Michael Long, Latonya Pinkard, Yolanda Putman, Elizabeth Tallman, Gabby Thomas and Porshe Thompson.
Jennings also thanked the many parents, friends, guest speakers, sponsors, and donors for supporting Camp REACH and acknowledged the Mary Walker Historical and Educational Foundation Board of Directors: Nancy Cogar; Adrian Edwards; John L. Edwards III; Kemberly Edwards Williams; Regina Enochs; Sheryl Fletcher; Bruce Morgan; Nea Paris; and Darrell Walsh.
The ceremony ended with music by Willie Kitchens and band, followed by lunch.
Also participating in Camp REACH were students Tory Battle; Javontae Doyle; Avery Ford; Tyteyounna Hilt; Jakari Odom; Ethaniel Perkins; Jaziah Pinkerton; Zion Pinkerton; and Grayson Strickland.
The Mary Walker Historical and Educational Foundation was established in 1970 by the late Rev. J. Lloyd Edwards Jr., and named for Mary Walker, a tenant of what is now Mary Walker Towers in South Chattanooga. The foundation was created to honor Walker, a former slave who learned to read and write at age 117.
Its mission is “to help alleviate poverty for all Chattanooga citizens and help create economic stability through literacy training and educational activities.”
Camp REACH, a work-based six weeks summer camp, exposes high school teens to careers in media, painting, cosmetology and logistics. It teaches students chess, financial literacy, and citizenship and it pays up to $150 a week while they learn. The camp would not be possible without the following sponsors and partners: Maclellan Foundation, Benwood Foundation, Network Transport, Holston Foundation, Chattanooga Area McDonald’s, Papa Johns Pizza, Little Debbie, and Briley & Baxter Publication.
You can find out more about the Mary Walker Historical and Educational Foundation, or donate at www.MaryWalkerFoundation.org.