Conway Camp Focuses on Character

Dance instructor Taylor Conway, 16, leads choreography Wednesday in a..

Conway Camp Focuses on Character

Dance instructor Taylor Conway, 16, leads choreography Wednesday in a MixxedFit class for Summer Impact Camp participants at The Ministry Center in Conway. The camp, sponsored by Choosing to Excel, includes art, dance, reading, field trips and more. Students pictured include, front left, Kayleb Kern, 9, of Jackson, Miss.

Trinity Lasker of Maumelle is just 9, but she is clear about what she’s getting out of Choosing to Excel’s Summer Impact Camp.

“I learn about how to change bullying and how to be a game-changer and all that stuff,” she said. “I like it because I get to be with my friends and help people out.”

The six-week camp, sponsored by the nonprofit organization Choosing to Excel, is being held at The Ministry Center in Conway.

The camp, scheduled for June 5 through July 14, has 91 participants ages 7-15, and activities are separated into groups of males and females. The $150 camp fee provides breakfast and lunch and field trips, as well as activities on-site, such as art and dance.

Di’Anka Moton, a camp director and youth development director for Choosing to Excel, said the camp provides experiences that some children wouldn’t get otherwise.

“A lot of them would never be able to go to the Museum of Discovery,” she said as an example.

The students have already been swimming at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway and to a trampoline park in Little Rock.

The camp builds on the mission of helping students learn to make good choices, Moton said. “We are a character camp,” she said. “We talk about changing behaviors.”

Di’Anka Moton’s mother, Thelma Moton, founded Choosing to Excel in 1991. It started in the Conway School District and expanded to Greenbrier, Mayflower, Morrilton, Vilonia, Hot Springs, Cabot, Lonoke and some Little Rock schools.

The focus of Choosing to Excel has been on students making healthy choices and includes mentoring programs; a computerized infant simulator that students take home; a small group for boys called Men of Character and Quality and one for females called Girls Eagerly Maintaining High Standards; classroom presentations; and more.

“One of the really big focuses [of the camp] is we want to continue the education. Research shows it falls off in the summer,” Di’Anka Moton said.

Thelma Moton said that’s exactly why she started the camp.

“In 1995, it became very apparent to us that the kids who were involved in our ongoing program in school — in the summer months, their reading fell off, their behavior,” Thelma said. “Whatever gains they had were lost.

“We started under a shade tree at the Conway Housing Authority. We gave them Popsicles, and we’d do comprehension games and reading.”

The camp was held from 1996 until 2014 at the Greater Pleasant Branch Baptist Church in Conway; then it moved to The Ministry Center.

Di’Anka said reading is still a big focus of the camp. Choosing to Excel partners with the Arkansas Educational Television Network in Conway, which provides age-appropriate books, chosen by camp leaders, to every child who attends. For example, Di’Anka said the theme of one book is “How to love yourself, no matter what.”

Jaheim Cummings, 15, of Conway said he’s been coming to the camp since he was in elementary school.

“It’s fun, keeps you out of trouble,” he said. Jaheim said he also learns “how to be a better person.”

That’s exactly what camp organizers want to hear.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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