At Sunnyside park off Highway 288 and Belfort, these ten and eleven year olds, students have just finished eating lunch and are about to play board games.
Down the hallway in the gym is where the younger kids are. About half are playing basketball and the other half appear to be playing something that looks like tag.
Kay Joshua, a manager with the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, says the Sunnyside park location is one of the city’s busiest. But camp at all the locations are basically the same.
“The activities are structured day camp activities that include arts, crafts sports, field trips, fun fitness. We have swimming for those community centers where there are pools.”
The city’s summer enrichment program, as they call it, is available for kids at various parks and community centers throughout Houston. The camp costs $30 per week, per child.
“The kids have been in school the whole school season and in the summer time they want to relax. For a lot of the kids who participate in our summer enrichment program, this is the only vacation they get.”
JoAnn Johnson is a staff member at the park . She’s been with the city for 23 years and explains why the camp is important for some families.
“Because it keeps kids out of trouble. It gives them activities and even when school is out it gives them recreational things to do. We do recreation with them, as well as nutrition with them, and we do sports with them. But it helps the parents in saving a lot of them money, because it’s free if they have some time of assistance. And even if the have to pay money for the program, it’s not very expensive.”
Johnson sees many of the same kids during the year in the after-school program, but says summer is a little different.
“During the after school program you might have maybe 60-70 kids, but you only have them between the hours of 3 and 6. In the summer enrichment program, we have them from 8 in the morning until 6 in the evening, and they also get a free lunch and a free snack.”
Johnson says she gets joy out of working with the kids and seeing them have a good time — and after 23 years, she’s now working with children of some of her former campers.