Sometimes simple, fleeting interaction with other people can provide particular joy.
Students participating in the free teen camp held by the nonprofit organization Full Circle 360 spend some of their time going to spots in the community to bring water, juice, popsicles and other snacks – and also just to visit.
“We go to different parks and apartments,” said Da’Naijah Turner, 14. “We go around … and say ‘God bless you’ or ‘Have a good day.’ Something small and simple.”
Da’Naijah is among about 25 students enrolled in the teen camp at 3400 West 34th Ave. in Pine Bluff.
Alexander Price, president of Full Circle 360, said that the nonprofit organization had held camps for younger children for the past two summers, but that this is the first year for teens. The organization has been running since 2014.
“We’re dealing with those teens throughout the year, but I wanted to focus (in the summer) on the dangers on guns, weapons, STDs, and to talk about youth entrepreneurship,” Price said. He noted, too, that parents had expressed interest in summer activities for teens.
The summer, Price suggested, can open up a time of creativity for teens, but without guidance, it can also be a time of boredom.
“So many young people get involved in sex and drugs in the summer because they have nothing to,” he said. He added that helping to cultivate entrepreneurship among young people can allow them to identify projects they can later tackle.
Some of the time at the Full Circle 360 teen summer camp is devoted to guest speakers, and on Monday morning Lloyd Franklin spoke to the group. Franklin is a retired Arkansas State Police commander, and among his current contributions to the community is his service as a member of the board of directors for the Pine Bluff Urban Renewal Agency.
Franklin spoke to the group about traits to help them in life and also in work. He noted qualities such as timeliness and the ability to accept constructive criticism.
In an interview after the talk, he reflected particularly on the notion of criticism.
“One of the dangers on the street right now is that no one can take criticism,” he said. “One of the things we have to instill in our children is to accept criticism, and also how to criticize (constructively).”
Franklin noted the importance of talking to students in groups, but he also stressed the need for adults to connect with teens in a one-on-one way, as well.
“At some point you have to get that individual time in,” he said. “In a group, there are always three or four who are not going to speak.”
J’Tara Lockhart, from North Little Rock, is volunteering to help out with this year’s camp. She noted some of the tasks involved in the camp, such as helping teens to stay safe in the summer, helping them to resist or to examine critically what they find in social media, and teaching strong work ethics.
“They definitely need guidance as far as self-awareness,” Lockhart added. “They’re going through that hormonal stage, and they’re finding themselves. They’re going from being a little kid to being a bigger kid.”
Lockhart imagined life through the eyes of a teenager as she described some of the camp’s purpose.
“Our bodies are changing, our mindsets are changing, and we need to be able to function while we’re growing,” she said.
Price said he and other staff members have encouraged teens to write down their desires and fears, considering the things they can do in the community as well as the things they’d like to be able to do. He said he’s asked them about recent shootings.
“A lot of teens, since the recent shootings that have taken place, are saying, ‘What can we do?’” Price said. “Can we be part of your program? It’s dangerous just being out in the street.”
Sometimes, during camp, participants talk about area activities available to them in the summer – and Austin Moss, 12, mentioned an abundance of family reunions around this time of year. Zayvion Price, son to Alexander Price, also noted some of the career-related aspects of the camp.
“You get to learn about business ideas and what to be in the future, and also what to avoid,” said Zayvion, 15. “It helps you with job interviews, getting jobs, acting responsibly, showing up on time…”
Elijah Price, brother to Zayvion and son to Alexander Price, also summed up some of the value of the camp to prospective participants.
“Coming up here can keep them busy,” he said. “They can learn what they can do with their life. They can learn about careers and also about college.”
Da’Naijah said camps throughout the community – in a variety of settings – can open up possibilities for teens who suddenly find themselves with spare time in the summer.
“Instead of just sitting at home, eating, being a couch potato,” she said, “they should go out and have fun – not go to parties and engage in violence, but go to camps and help out others.”
The camp runs through July 31, and people can still sign up. Anyone with questions about the camp or about Full Circle 360 can call 870-592-9136.