By Riley Manning
TUPELO – For the second year, Red Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church is making sure its youth are ready for the coming year and beyond with its summer reading camp.
Throughout the week, 61 campers from kindergarten through 12th grade have engaged in activities, ventured on field trips and listened to speakers about the importance of reading. While grade-schoolers wrote and mailed letters and followed recipe instructions to bake brownies, high school students finished off their summer reading for school, and visited Itawamba Community College’s nursing facilities in Tupelo and Fulton. They also visited local media outlets.
“We really tried to focus on jobs that require reading skills,” said Red Oak Grove pastor, the Rev. Jeffrey Gladney. “There are so many behind-the-scenes jobs that they might not have even thought about. The more exposure they get, the better prepared they will be to make career choices.”
The church even brought in a life coach to guide high-schoolers in constructing a resume.
Gladney said last year’s program was a great success, resulting in a few high school senior participants graduating with honors. This year, he said, many more kids attended and the camp featured many more components. For instance, the kids will complete story boards of books they’ve read, analyzing the conflicts, characters and resolutions of the story.
“We’re trying to step up the intensity, too. If a third-grader is very comfortable doing the third-grade work, we push them up with the fourth-graders,” Gladney said. “We want everyone to be at least on grade level with reading, especially with the third-grade stop gate. One thing this camp allows us to do is identify our struggling readers and catch them up before school starts.”
Gladney said the aim of the camp was for the church to provide a platform for success. Gladney said he used the skills and connections of his congregation members to help orchestrate the camps, field trips and guests.
“We want a church to be more than just worship. We want it to be a place of Christian education,” he said. “My wife and I both have educational and administrative backgrounds, so we’re always trying to tighten up the structure to expand and make the camp more efficient. I feel like the Lord has really teamed up with us.”