Sparta — Since 2021, students from Sparta Area Schools have been given a “taste of everything ‘summer camp,’” thanks to a partnership with Camp Scottie in Howard City.
That’s according to Appleview Elementary Principal Mike Birely, who said the relationship serves both the school and the camp, which hosted Sparta students for two five-day sessions this summer.
“It’s important to us to get kids outside to experience the world around them, enjoy fun experiences, and build new relationships,” Birely said, adding that the camp is “striving to make camp more accessible to everyone, including those with less financial resources.”
‘There has been so much joy and excitement in being outside from the Sparta students — they are curious, creative, and enthusiastic about spending time in the woods with the camp staff.’— Appleview Principal Mike Birely
The camp is available to Sparta students entering kindergarten through fifth grade. Birely said most children can attend the camp free of charge thanks to generous donors and the school administration, which makes sure transportation to and from the camp is covered. The district’s food service department also provides free breakfast and lunch.
The day camp is part of a program progression with Camp Roger in Rockford, which acquired the Camp Scottie property in 2017. The idea is that the experience will lead to more camp experiences, like overnight trips, wilderness exploring and leadership programs.
Birely said the Camp Scottie staff works hard to make sure that students feel “welcomed, loved and that they belong.”
“Most Sparta students come to camp with a few friends, but everyone has the opportunity to make a new friend before the week concludes,” he said. “There has been so much joy and excitement in being outside from the Sparta students — they are curious, creative, and enthusiastic about spending time in the woods with the camp staff.”
Fifth-grader Trevor VanderHyde said he had an amazing experience.
“Camp Scottie was great because we got to be outdoors, build forts, swam and fished,” Trevor said. “The counselors were nice and the tag game at the end of camp was my favorite. I knew everyone in my group and we had fun together.”
When the partnership between Sparta and Camp Scottie launched in 2021, about 150 campers from Sparta attended. That number has gone up since, with 192 participating between June and mid-August of this year.
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