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Jumpin' Jambalaya varies activities; Children provided range of experiences

From poetry to cosmetology, cooking to music production, fun and challenging programs along with weekly field trips have made the African American Cultural Center's Jumpin' Jambalaya Summer Day Camp Program a popular place to be.

Quanaejah Miller, 14, has her favorite activities.

"I like participating in spelling bees. Also, sewing classes -- they taught us how to make our own pillows (last year), and the video productions classes. They taught me how to work a camera, and how to make my own videos if I want to," said Quanaejah, a ninth grader at East High School.

"It's a fun experience, you get to learn new things, make new things. And the teachers are nice. They're patient. They like to make sure you really understand what's going on."

The camp, which is run at the African American Cultural Center, 350 Masten Ave., can serve 50 children and is open to youngsters ages 6 to 12. It runs from June 27 to Aug. 27. The cost is $185 per week, with financial assistance available. For information, call 884-2013.

Activities are structured to vary from hour to hour. On the last day of day camp, known as Unity Day, children get to show family and friends some of what they have learned.

"We have a very vigorous summer program. We try to keep the children active and involved, and give them new things they haven't experienced before," said Agnes Bain, the African American Cultural Center's executive director.

Tammy Gaines, who coordinates the day camp, grew up attending summers as a camper.

"It was an opportunity for me to get away from just being at home. A lot of kids are not given the opportunity [in the summer] where they are exposed to other children and different activities," Gaines said. "We want them to have fun, but also learn something as well. Education doesn't stop when school is over."

Her son, Brandon Gaines, a seventh grader at Dr. Olivia Wright School of Excellence, is looking forward to resuming hands-on learning about music production.

"Our teacher showed us how to mix and put music together (using computer software), and we rap and sing. It's a fun experience," Brandon said. He also likes percussion, and has taken drum classes.

Among the array of subjects are sewing, painting, soccer, entrepreneurship, woodworking, fashion design, basketball, photography, life skills, French, etiquette, vocals and gardening.

Weekly field trips will take the children this summer to Splash Lagoon in Erie, Pa.; Strong National Museum of Play, and Seabreeze Amusement Park, in Rochester; Roseland Waterpark in Canandaigua; Darien Lake Theme Park and the Aquarium of Niagara Falls.

Paulette Harris, who is artistic director of the cultural center's Paul Robeson Theatre, teaches music video production and "Everything Wheels," in which kids get to roller skate and Rollerblade.

Steven McMillion Jr., who has supervised the daily operation since 2002, teaches life skills, including mock interviews and resume writing, to "help prepare the older kids for the future."

McMillion started at the camp as a volunteer, then worked his way up.

"A lot of the satisfaction I get is seeing some of the summer youth workers come through the program and eventually become teachers. Some of the children wind up being counselors. It's like a recycling program," said McMillion, who is the center's director of education during the regular year.

Bain said the cultural center "is one of our community jewels," yet has struggled to keep its doors open with the elimination of county funding this year.

"It's really difficult, but we're here and we want parents to know we are and to support our endeavors, which we know they do."

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com

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