Handmade games out of cardboard were part of the adventure week festivities as more than 50 young scholars from KidsSTREAM Inc., a Waldorf-based educational nonprofit operated by co-founders Anya and Vernon Myers, participated in the fifth annual summer camp carnival extravaganza on Aug. 22 at Victory Christian Ministries International Waldorf Campus in White Plains.
The extravaganza featured nearly a dozen stations including a duck pond game, balloon darting, freestanding ball toss wheel, aiming ball point board, “aim and fire” water bottle challenge, box ball as well as imitated ice hockey and skee ball games. Participants enjoyed grilled hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and drinks in addition to receiving goodie bags and prizes.
“In school, the kids are so used to mimicking what the educator is telling them to do. It’s cookie cutter in a sense so they lose that creativity. But here, they can allow their creativity to flow,” Anya Myers told the Maryland Independent last month.
KidsSTREAM works toward preparing youth, both academically and socially, to excel in the fields of science, technology, research, engineering, arts and mathematics. For the past five years, the Myers have been offering a unique “out-of-school program,” specifically one that is geared toward promoting well-balanced and active citizens whom aspire to “seek more knowledge” or obtain a career in one of the STREAM fields, according to its website.
From tutoring and mentoring programs to providing other support-based initiatives like adult workshops, Anya Myers said KidsSTREAM is more than just a summer camp. It’s a place “where every kid has a dream.”
“It’s a husband and wife effort,” she said. “It’s funny how KidsSTREAM was started because I previously did family day care. I had a small infant and toddler center in Prince George’s County but then, my dad got sick and I had to close my facility and everything down. I decided that it was time to switch gears and so, I went into nursing. But I loved the children. I tried my best to do both ”
Vernon Myers, a longtime educator who is currently an adjunct developmental mathematics professor at the College of Southern Maryland, said founding KidsSTREAM was destined to happen as the St. Mary’s couple both share a passion for helping underprivileged children.
“I’m working on my doctorate degree. I thought about that and said, ‘If they’re asking us now, as adults, to do research, then they’re expecting our young ones to have those skills and strategies,” he said. “Part of our common core here is that we’re trying to build those skills. One of the challenges is that a lot of our children do not get that opportunity to explore these areas like they’re supposed to. ... But we want to bring in the fun with instructional materials so they can create different activities, which are the things that they are going to remember the most when they go back to school.”
Sen. Arthur Ellis (D-Charles), along with photographer Enoch Bevel who is also Ellis’ chief of staff, stopped by to join in on the fun.
Ellis let out his inner child while playing a few games and was happy to show off a mini trophy that he had won.
Ellis, according to Anya Myers, was at the Aug. 22 event to congratulate a few special campers that completed a summer reading challenge. Among the young honorees who read the most books was 6-year-old Ciara Proctor.
“It’s fun so I [kept] reading every day,” said Proctor, emphasizing that she read 105 books and enjoys learning new words. “When you learn stuff, it’s going to be fun.”
Raliyah Waller, 21, of Waldorf, niece of Anya Myers who has worked as a camp counselor since the nonprofit was incorporated, said KidsSTREAM is a home away from home as children of all ages can learn and play with each other in a loving environment.
“I’ve been working with kids since I was a kid so it just seemed natural,” Waller said. “It’s cool watch them grow and find out what they learned when they get older. I want them to be that person that they can talk to when they feel like they can’t talk to their parents. None of the kids ever want to leave — that’s a really good feeling.”
“All of the feedback that we get, and new people that come back is because of the kids,” Vernon Myers said.
In addition to junior counselors being able to receive academic credit for their volunteer hours, KidsSTREAM hires and pays older camp counselors for their service, thanks to funding assistance from the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation’s youth program.
Anya Myers said parents love the overall program because of its ability to provide kids with critical and creative thinking skills. One mother in particular was impressed with how her son blossomed from a very shy kid to performing in a talent show before hundreds of his peers.
“It just warms my heart to see things like this over and over again,” Anya Myers said. “Throughout the years, parents have been supporting us. But this year, the community as a whole has supported us and we’re very grateful for that.”
KidsSTREAM celebrated the end of summer, and five years in business, with a weekend trip to Ocean City last month. The Myers shared their adventures on Facebook which featured numerous photos and a live video.
“[My favorite part about camp is that] I get to have fun,” said 9-year-old Corrado Owens-Vest, who was recently given an award for never missing a day of camp since he first attended at age 4. “It makes me feel [like] I’m not lonely inside because I have friends to play with and be with here.”
For more information about KidsSTREAM, go to kidsstreaminc.com or call 301-392-7052.