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focuses on character
By Tammy Keith Published 12:00 a.m.
Dance instructor Taylor Conway, 16, leads choreography Wednesday in a MixxedFit class for Summer Impact Camp participants at The Ministry Center in Conway. The healthy choice/risk avoidance camp, sponsored by Choosing to Excel, includes art, dance, reading, field trips and more. Students pictured include, front left, Kayleb Kern, Trinity Lasker of Maumelle, she is clear about what she’s getting out of Choosing to Excel’s Summer Impact Camp.
“I learn about how to change bullying and how to be a game-changer and all that stuff,” she said. “I like it because I get to be with my friends and help people out.”
The six-week camp, sponsored by the nonprofit organization Choosing to Excel, is being held at The Ministry Center in Conway
The camp, scheduled for June 5 through July 14, has 91 participants for upper elementary -, high school with a focus on older youth, and activities are separated into groups of males and females. The camp provides breakfast and lunch and field trips, as well as activities on-site that focus on making healthy choices, life skills and enrichment activities such as art, reading and dance.
Di’Anka Moton, a camp director and youth development director for Choosing to Excel, said the camp provides experiences that some children wouldn’t get otherwise.
“A lot of them would never be able to go to the Museum of Discovery,” she said as an example.
The students have already been swimming at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway and to a trampoline park in Little Rock.
The camp builds on the mission of helping students learn to make good choices, Moton said. “We are a character camp,” she said. “We talk about changing and strengthening behaviors.”
Di’Anka Moton’s mother, Thelma Moton, founded Choosing to Excel in 1991. It started in the Conway School District and expanded to Greenbrier, Mayflower, Morrilton, Vilonia, Hot Springs, Cabot, Lonoke and some Little Rock schools.
The focus of Choosing to Excel has been on students making healthy choices and includes mentoring programs; a computerized infant simulator that students take home; a small group for boys called Men of Character and Quality and one for females called Girls Eagerly Maintaining High Standards; classroom presentations; and more.
“One of the really big focuses [of the camp] is we want to continue the education. Research shows it falls off in the summer,” Di’Anka Moton said.
Thelma Moton said that’s exactly why she started the camp.
“In 1995, it became very apparent to us that the kids who were involved in our ongoing program in school — in the summer months, their reading fell off, their behavior,” Thelma said. “Whatever gains they had were lost.
“We started under a shade tree at the Conway Housing Authority. We gave them Popsicles, and we’d do comprehension games and reading.”
The camp was held from 1996 until 2014 at the Greater Pleasant Branch Baptist Church in Conway; then it moved to The Ministry Center.
Di’Anka said reading is still a big focus of the camp. Choosing to Excel partners with the Arkansas Educational Television Network in Conway, which provides age-appropriate books, chosen by camp leaders, to every child who attends. For example, Di’Anka said the theme of one book is “How to love yourself, no matter what.”
Jaheim Cummings, 15, of Conway said he’s been coming to the camp since he was in elementary school.
“It’s fun, keeps you out of trouble,” he said. Jaheim said he also learns “how to be a better person.”
That’s exactly what camp organizers want to hear.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or email@example.com.
Choosing to Excel’s Youth Leadership Team will be graduating four of our exceptional seniors!!!
Jakayla Storey, Jessica Dean, Hadiyah Cummings, and Montanna Owens are four young ladies that have raised the bar of being a leader. Excel’s Leadership Team is a team of students who are selected in the 8th grade that have made the choice to stand apart amongst their peers to promote healthy decision making and exceptional character amongst teens and youth.
Jakayla Storey, the President of the Leadership Team and Student Body President of Conway High School, has been a part of Excel for the past four years. She will be attending UA Fayetteville this Fall semester, and was recently accepted to the Razorback Color Guard team. Jakayla will be receiving the Challenge scholarship, Freshman Academic Scholarship, Financial Academic Scholarship, and a scholarship for the Razorback Color Guard.
Jessica Dean, one of the Vice Presidents of the Leadership, joined the team her sophomore year, will be graduating with a 3.47 GPA and attending UCA this Fall with the Federal Pell Grant and a Future Leader Scholarship.
Hadiyah Cummings, graduating with a 4.01 GPA, the Leadership Team’s Secretary, has been a part of the organization since age 7 attending Excel’s summer camp. She officially joined the team in the 8th grade, and will be traveling all the way to Washington D.C. to attend the prestigious Howard University. Hadiyah has received the Howard University Grace Grant totaling $80,000, PEO Star Scholarship, OMEGA Psi Phi Essay contest scholarship, the OMEGA Psi Phi Talent Search Scholarship, and the Ann Presley Scholarship. Hadiyah was also a member of Girl State, in which she was able to visit the White House this past year.
Montanna Owens will be attending FIU (Florida International University) after taking a year off so she can travel. Montanna spent her junior year in Bosnia, and serves as a media director for the Leadership Team.
All four of our leaders have represented Conway and Excel exceptionally well as they have strived to be the epitome of leadership. We are very proud of their accomplishments and wish them the BEST on the next phase of their lives! As we send them off, always remember to KEEP THE END IN MIND!!!
Choosing to Excel is also proud to announce a graduation rate of 95% of its members over the 26 years. A previous member of the Leadership Team, Angel Navarro, who spent three years on the team, will also be a 2017 graduate at CHS.