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    The West Louisville Youth Space (WLYS) is an after school program that runs year-round at the Portland Memorial Baptist Church (3802 West Market St.). Their regular hours are from 4p.m. to 7p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. The kids who attend may receive a variety of services such as homework assistance, computer access, counseling, art and sewing classes, and a meal before they leave. During the summer, WLYS runs several different programs, and one is the 5-week Summer Reading Enrichment Camp, supported by Brown-Forman.

    The summer camp will run from June 16 to July 16, meeting every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 9a.m. to 12:30p.m. They will be taking applications up till the first week of the camp, and what’s best about this, is that it is completely free. I spoke to Sis Von Kanel and Al Saunders, two individuals who have been with the program since its conception, about this camp. Von Kanel explained that the students who come get camp t-shirts and will be served breakfast at 9a.m. as well as lunch at 12p.m. They accept students from five years old to 18 years old, and they have teachers for the separate age groups. Von Kanel emphasized that they “don’t turn anyone away.”

    At the start of the camp, each student is given a JCPS pre-test, and at the end of the camp, they are retested to see what they have maintained and learned throughout the camp. The students study a full range of subjects including english, spelling, math, science, and history. The teachers are normally local teachers who volunteer their time for these kids. Throughout each day, the students also have recess and snack time. During recess, the kids are taken on walks around the block so that they may see the surrounding neighborhoods as well as meet the neighbors.

    It’s not all classroom work at this camp; the students are also taken on field trips each week. The first week’s trip is to the Louisville Public Library. The next three field trips are taken on the Thursday of each week, and those locations are a surprise. In the past, kids have had the chance to go bowling, swimming, and skating. Von Kanel explained that after the first week, the kids must attend all three days of the week in order to go on that week’s field trip. Von Kanel and Saunders also mentioned that the teachers find ways to make the field trips educational without taking away from the fun.

    At the end of the camp, there is a graduation day, and families and friends are invited to attend. The students and teachers work together to create a program for graduation, including special events such as a luncheon, a spelling bee, and a presentation of certificates from Yarmuth’s office and backpacks filled with school supplies from the Louisville Public Library. The end of this camp is a celebration of all the hard work that the students had done over their fives weeks with WLYS, and the fun doesn’t end there. The next day is a cookout, free day for students and their families to enjoy, and the day after that is a Day at the Zoo.

    Von Kanel and Saunders emphasized the benefits of this program as well as the fact that everything in the camp, including the field trips, are all free. In the past, they have had many returning as well as new students, totaling up to 100-120 students. By graduation, they always had at least 60 or more students who made it through the five weeks without excessive absences due to vacations or other activities.

    Saunders pointed out that at this camp, students receive individualized attention, and if a student needs one-on-one attention, then they will have a volunteer work with that student one-on-one. Saunders explained that WLYS and this camp is funded through fundraisers, grants from Brown-Forman, United Way, and the City of Louisville, and donations from benefactors and the public.

    For more information on the camp, contact WLYS.


    Photo Courtesy of Irena Tran

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    About Irena Tran

    I studied Art at UofL and now physical therapy at Bellarmine University. I love art, sports, and good food. I'm always looking for something new to try and new concepts to photograph!

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