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The Hi Kee summer enrichment program is all about keeping students sharp over summer break – and having a good time while doing it.
And this year was no exception.
Sponsored by Steele Hill Community Partners and hosted by Steele Hill AME Zion Church on Charlotte Highway, the program wrapped up its fourth year as an extended six-week program June 29.
And it may have been the best year yet.
“This is a great place to be over the summer,” said Makalah Wallace, 12, one of the program’s 56 students.
“Although there was a bit of hard work to it, it’s still worth it,” she said, smiling. “It gives me a chance to see my friends and lets me learn over the summer without the stress of teachers.”
Program helps minimize regression
Organized and operated by Director Fred Witherspoon, Hi Kee is aimed at helping students minimize “regression,” a term used by educators to describe critical skills lost over summer vacation.
The camp day ran from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., five days a week with students grouped according to age and grade levels.
The first half of the camp day focused on reading, writing, math and science with both book and computer work; the second half focused on fun.
“I think the quality of the program has improved over the years with the activities we offer and the variety,” Witherspoon said. “The kids are doing something different every day.”
Witherspoon said this year’s program included such staples as field trips to the movies and other fun activities, but also new activities that were slyly educational.
This year, it was chess classes with Charlotte chess coach Bernard Baker and digital photography lessons with the Rev. Eddie Boykin.
“The program has two components, summer learning, that focuses on academics, and enrichment,” Witherspoon said. “What enrichment does is help the kids be well-rounded.
“Activities like chess and photography help with their critical-thinking skills, helps them be more creative and improve their planning skills,” he said.
From students to staff
Witherspoon and others said one of the great things about the program’s continued success is seeing the kids grow up in the program, and then come back to help out.
One of those former students turned staff members is Tia Johnson, 21, now an education major and senior at Bowie State University in Maryland.
Johnson, who attended Hi Kee back when it was called the Summer Reading Program, said it helped her learn skills she still uses.
“One of the books we studied was ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens,’” Johnson said. “I still have that book. It helped me with making decisions, getting organized, time management.
“It’s nice to see the program grow every year,” she said. “I think that now that everybody knows we’re here, we have a lot of businesses in the county who could add to it.”
Community support vital
Witherspoon said the program would not be possible, and definitely would not have grown over the years, without its staff members, volunteers and the financial and other support of the community.
The bulk of Hi Kee’s financial support comes from tuition, community grants by such organizations as Lancaster County Partners For Youth, Duke Energy Foundation and the Springs Close Foundation.
Other vital support, Witherspoon said, comes from businesses such as Home Depot and Kenaki Karate, and community members such as Geraldine Ivey, the Osceola Quilting Club and the Hinson Girls, who helped out by leading activities.
“All the pieces fit together nicely,” Witherspoon said. “Community support is vital because it shows the kids that the community cares about their success.”