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How Ozarks’ Youth Can Stay Active This Summer

Emily McTavish

School’s out for summer, and there are a lot of opportunities for pre-teens and teenagers in the area to be active.

Courtney Simpkins, school age services area director for Springfield YMCA, says there are still about 60 open spots for students in grades six to eight in the summer day camp.

“A lot of people might say, ‘Well my kids are older, I might let them stay at home,’” Simpkins says. “When they’re at home, first of all you don’t know what they’re doing at home or they might be on the electronics all day, where here at the summer day camp we have them up and moving. We have them active.”

The summer day camp includes both mental and physical activities such as reading, communication skills, arts and crafts, sports and also field trips.

“We go on a wide variety of field trips where they can experience something maybe they’ve never gotten to experience before,” Simpkins says.

Simpkins says the program costs $100 per week for non-YMCA member and $80 per week for YMCA members. The cost covers healthy snacks and transportation to the field trip sites.

The YMCA partners with Homegrown Food Hub to provide local, fresh produce, says Simpkins, which also helps teach the kids about healthy eating.

“We are helping provide a safe place for teens to go so parents don’t have to worry about what they’re doing while they’re at work,” Simpkins says.

Financial assistance is available for all YMCA summer programs, and Simpkins says there is no cut off for those needing assistance.

Parents can register their children for camp at either the Downtown Ward location on Jefferson Avenue or at the Pat Jones location on East Republic Street. Registering for the YMCA summer day camp is open until all the spots are filled.

Other local opportunities for youth this summer include various teen activities. They occur at specific library branches and are for those not in summer school and also on weekends for those who are, says Nancee Dahms-Stinson of the Youth Services Department for the Springfield-Greene County Library District.

“The most important thing is to try and figure out what the teen enjoys doing and try and feed into that,” Dahms-Stinson says.

Dahms-Stinson says keeping kids relaxed but active during summer is important and the library is a good resource.

“The healthiest way to rest your brain is to keep it active with something else so hanging out with other teens, learning new computer skills, learning fun ways to occupy your time as with science…or doing something a little bit passive like reading,” Dahms-Stinson says.

Dahms-Stinson says the science activities offered by the library have usually been the most popular, but there are other programs for those interested in reading and writing.

In addition, many of the teen rooms at the libraries have video game systems and board games, available for play individually or in groups.

Schools Parks Are Reaching Community, a partnership between the public school system and park board, also offers summer programs. Specifically for pre-teens and teens, there is the Summer Quest Camp which began this past Monday and runs through July 31.

The park board, YMCA and Missouri State University Athletics are offering summer sports programs for teens.

For those interested in the arts, both the Springfield Little Theatre and Springfield Ballet are offering summer youth programs for a range of ages.

Ozarks Greenways offer miles of trails to be biked by kids from sunrise to sunset in the greater Springfield area, and dogs are also welcome companions.

If your organization has a youth program or programs available this summer, feel free to enter in the comment section below.