For the first time, team members served as counselors and physical activity directors at Camp Akwaba, a summer program established nearly two decades ago by Mercy Mission Outreach to teach peacemaking skills to kids at Skyline Terrace housing complex. Community Services' program manager Shawnta Forester, M.A.Ed., now coordinates the camp, of which Mercy is a sponsor.
According to Shawnta, this collaboration with the team was a huge success. She says, "These African-American student-athletes stepped up to serve their community by modeling healthy attitudes and behaviors for children who, in many cases, don't have a positive male role model in their lives."
Prior to working with the children at the peace camp, Shawnta met with the teens and provided training and insights into working with underserved youth.
- Timken High School basketball player and camp counselor Jose Langoria with his peace camp students
"The children at the peace camp could not only look up to these young men, but also could envision themselves as student-athletes," she says. "The players' achievements have required work and effort, and kids were encouraged to see how they, too, were capable of attaining the same thing."
Rick Hairston, head coach of the Timken High School boys basketball team and a health and physical education instructor, believes the boys were a great representation of the kind of students who attend Timken.
"As a coach, I've tried to help them understand the importance of community service in a number of ways," he says. "Most of the kids we work with at Timken High School are great, and the young men who worked at the peace camp do a really good job on the team and in the classroom. I'm proud of their efforts."
When Mercy Mission Outreach established its annual summer peace camp in 1995, its goal was to help area youth learn to handle conflicts in a productive way. Over the years, many former campers have become counselors themselves.
Sister Carolyn Capuano, HM, vice president of mission and ministry at Mercy, had the opportunity to observe the camp counselors and students in action.
She says, "I was impressed by the order and calmness of the camp's atmosphere. Everyone did a great job with this program, and it's an honor to see the continuing legacy of a ministry that started with Mercy Mission Outreach."
- Timken High School basketball players and counselors (left to right) include Isaiah Williams, Damir Jackson, Khai McClesky, Andre Foutner, Marcus Fite II, and Kae’Ron Berkley. Center: camp director Shawnta Forester. Not pictured: Jose Langoria.