For the past 20 years, students from the Orlando area have gathered at the Citrus Bowl for summer camp. In that time, thousands of students have come through to swim, golf and learn essential skills that will carry them through life. The Florida Citrus Sports Foundation highlights the middle-schoolers as MVPs and works with the community to teach the students athletics, academics, attitude and achievement.
We popped in to see what the camp was up to this year. With a voice recorder and a camera, we captured a glimpse of a day in the life of a student attending Florida Citrus Sports. Here’s a candid look at what the Florida Citrus Sports Foundation MVPs were up to.
Walking into the Citrus Bowl, we were immediately greeted by a dance class.
How did all of you learn about this camp?
“Yeah, we’re in middle school and they told us.”
“My mom told me.”
Who’s the best dancer here?
“No. It’s me.”
“Hey, it’s me sir.”
Across the street from the Citrus Bowl, the middle school boys were finishing up a flag football game.
How are you going to win the next game?
“Team effort. That’s how you win anything.”
What’s your favorite sport to play at camp?
“My favorite sport to play is football.”
“Because I’ve been playing my whole life. And I can knock kids over.”
“I play wide receiver.”
Hey Coach. How long have you been here?
“It’s my first year here. My uncle told me about it. He had volunteered here before. It’s a good place for the kids.”
What’s the best thing that kids are learning?
“The kids are learning a lot of values. How to take care of each other and work as a team. It’s about respect.”
I was talking to the girls. They said they could beat you in basketball.
“Huh? No way! They can’t beat us. Not the girls. Not even the older girls.”
After football, the students loaded up and headed to the gym to play basketball, swim and use the gym’s computer lab.
What do you guys really want to do at camp?
“I want to intercept somebody in football.”
“Oh! I wanna go swimming!”
“I want to cross somebody so hard that they fall over.”
How long have you been coming to camp?
“Just these weeks”
What’s your favorite thing you learned?
“Teamwork and effort.”
Students on the sidelines
“We can take both of these teams.”
How much longer are you guys here?
“We’ve been here for probably a month. We’ll be here for about 5 more weeks? It’s good though.”
Do you guys ever use that pool outside?
“Tuesdays and Thursdays we go to the swimming pool.”
Outside, instructors were teaching students a variety of strokes and the students were teaching each other cannonballs.
On the count of three jump!
“Wait! All three of us need to jump at the same time.”
“Oh! Oh! I’ll jump too!”
What are the students learning here?
“Basically, these kids started at level zero. Some of them were afraid of water and had bad experiences with siblings or getting pushed into the water. They’re overcoming trauma. You have to work with their psyche first. It translates to their personality. They don’t trust you. You have to earn their trust.”
“These students are learning their strokes. We always do safety stuff like learning to float, being able to touch the bottom. They start off at level one and then progress through the program.”
Did you learn to swim here?
“I like swimming, but I am the best at dancing.”
Who, when they go underwater, can blow a bunch of bubbles?
Can you beat the boys in swimming?
Alright, well I’ll let them know that.
“Do we get to swim with the boys?”
You’ll have to talk to your counselor about that.
Right next to the basketball court inside, some of the students were in the computer lab.
What’s your favorite thing to do on the computer?
“I like watching videos.”
What’s the best thing you’ve learned at camp?
“To be respectful.”
What else are you learning?
“What’s it called when you show a boss your information? For a job?”
“Yeah, that’s right. You work for AT&T?”
The kids packed up from the computer lab and the whole camp gathered together for lunch in a common room. The kids saw the camera and gathered for team portraits.
Alright, we’re trying to get pictures of the best football players. Who is the best?
“Oh! That’s me!”
“We look fly! We look fly boy!”
“Tell the other teams to get ready.”
The Staff Behind the Camp
While the students settled down, we caught a moment with the main staff at the camp.
How did you get involved with camp?
“In the early 90’s I was hired by Charles Stanley as a member of the original staff.”
How has it changed?
“A lot of changes have happened for the benefit of the kids. Everything from softball to golf. We try to adjust to the needs of the community and whatever sports are available to offer during the summer.”
What’s your favorite thing that the kids have picked up?
“The swimming lessons are our best kept secret. All of the sports we offer have instructions that go along with it. Swimming was one of the original activities. The vision of the camp was that inner-city kids had practice, lessons and swimming. It’s a sad thing in Florida that some of our kids don’t know how to swim and there are so many bodies of water are around.”
What have you learned from the kids?
How do the kids open up?
“There are a lot of stories of kids who really work on their social skills and find a new outlet to learn, communicate and work as a team.”
What’s the biggest thing you want to see happen for these kids?
“That they become productive citizens, make good choices and progress with school and education.”
What are some of things you are most excited the kids are picking up.
“I am excited the kids are fortunate enough to get free swimming lessons. I am also excited that they have the opportunity to play golf and pick up the skills.”
What are the kids most excited about?
“Right now, honestly, the kids are probably most excited about the field trips. Going to places like SeaWorld and Epcot on Fridays.”
What have the parent’s responses been to camp?
“The parents are excited the kids have something to do for the summer. Sometimes the kids who are disadvantaged in this area don’t really have a place to go. Their parents are really excited that they can stay involved and come to camp everyday. It’s a great way for them to stay out of trouble.”
How are you teaching the kids?
“What I tell them is that ‘teamwork makes the dream work’. We’re only as strong as our weakest link here, so if we can’t depend on each other, none of this is going to work.”
What’s your dream for the kids after they leave camp?
“I came through the camp myself. I hope that someday they will be able to grow and mature and come back and impact someone else’s life.”
“I’ve been here for 17 years. Camp started a few years before I came.
How is this camp different than other summer camps in the area?
“What we do in our camp separates us from many of the other camps around the area. All of our activities are instructional activities. We just don’t let the kids go out there and play. All of our activities are teaching the kids values of the game, rules of the game, sportsmanship… that type of thing. I take the swimming part of our program very strongly.”
Why do you take swimming so seriously?
You can turn on the radio any night and here about a child who has drowned in a body of water. By teaching kids how to swim, even just tread water, we aren’t just doing activities, we are giving kids the skills to save their life”
What are some of the lessons you are teaching the kids?
“You aren’t going to win everytime. When you lose, we don’t teach them to fight or take their ball and go home. You shake the person’s hand and say, ‘I’ll get you next time.”
What have you learned from the kids?
“I’ve learned that the kids are very, very appreciative. They’re looking for guidance. We’re targeting kids who are economically disadvantaged and could probably never have an opportunity to experience something like this. From that perspective, I see how humble the kids are in understanding, ‘Wow, I can come to this camp for free and play these sports and go these places and I am getting guidance.”
Is there a specific lessons that the kids really connect with?
“Unfortunately, a lot of these kids see from the area in which they live a lot of negativity and they hear a lot of negativity. So to hear from us that you can be successful and to dream big gives the kids some life.”
What do you hope for the kids after camp?
“The big thing for me would be for the kids to sustain the good attitude they learned here and that they could continue to be told that they can be successful if they are willing to pay the price and do the good things that come with that.”
Florida Citrus Sports is doing amazing work as a part of a series of organizations working together with the community. As Orlando grows, organizations are focusing on bringing growth to all communities regardless of their socioeconomic status. Learn how we’re partnering with the communities around West Lakes and organizations in Orlando to make the City Beautiful that much more beautiful.