When Spring Break Is More Than
Toija Sandifer, Weed and Seed Coordinator
Youth display trophies at a Weed and Seed camp during spring break.
No kids complaining of boredom here.
For one week in April, during the public schools' spring
break, a Weed and Seed camp was the place where everyone played
basketball, everyone read books, and everyone had a good time.
This year, the Eighth Annual City of Atlanta Weed and Seed
T.E.A.M.-building camp partnered for the first time with the
Atlanta Police Department's Third Annual "Shoot
Hoops, Aim High" basketball camp. T.E.A.M (Together Everyone
Achieves More) and its partners pooled their resources to incorporate
athletic activities, reading sessions, and educational field
trips into a spring break program. The program also taught
character development and youth leadership skills.
The children who live in three local Weed and Seed sites in
the Mechanicsville and Pittsburgh neighborhoods are seeing
their communities go through the initial stages of redevelopment,
and Weed and Seed and its partners wanted to ease the children's
anxieties about this. In the Mechanicsville community, the
Housing Authority received a HOPE VI grant to revitalize the
McDaniel Glenn Housing project. In the adjacent community of
Pittsburgh, the Civic League Apartments were purchased to be
rebuilt into contemporary-styled housing.
The camp was held in a designated Safe Haven, the Dunbar Recreation
Center, which houses nonprofit agencies, faith-based organizations,
and government agencies whose service delivery focuses on child
development, career training, health and wellness, and economic
development. The Safe Haven has a cyber lab sponsored by the
Atlanta Workforce Development Agency that offers classes on
basic computer competency.
Every day during the school year between 3 and 4:30 p.m.,
athletic activities at the recreation center stop, and representatives
from the Department of Parks and Recreation and Cultural Affairs
and the Police Athletic League help children with homework.
During the 1-week camp, the Mayor's Office of Weed and
Seed and the Atlanta-Fulton County Library system introduced
D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) time for 30 minutes and
offered selections from the Atlanta Public Schools' suggested
Special activities also proved to be fun and educational.
Younger children explored the wilderness setting at the Pine
Mountain Wild Animal Safari Park, and older children traveled
to Birmingham, AL, to hear firsthand accounts of the lives
of African Americans during the civil rights movement. In addition,
the Atlanta Hawks surprised campers by inviting them to tour
Philips Arena and presenting each child with a collection of
basketball trading cards and folders.
The camp inspired many people from many organizations to give
of their time. Volunteers came from the Atlanta Police Department,
Mayor's Office of Weed and Seed, DEA, mass transit police,
Police Athletic League, Atlanta Fire and Rescue Department,
Fulton County Juvenile Court, Department of Parks and Recreation
and Cultural Affairs, Mechanicsville Civic Association, Pittsburgh
Community Improvement Association, Vine City Civic Association,
and the Atlanta-Fulton library system.
The week of activities confirmed for all of those involved
that healthy child development is enhanced by relationships
developed beyond family. The camp was an innovative approach
to filling in the gap between formal education and home training.
"This is another level of growth for the City of Atlanta's
Weed and Seed, and each year it becomes a learning experience
for all of us," said Karen Rogers, Director of Weed and
One of many lessons learned from this joint venture was how
important advance planning is and how pooling resources can
transform youth service delivery from myriad distinct programs
that have short-term effects to a collaborative project that
brings about a long-term comprehensive outcome. Atlanta's
Weed and Seed is viewing the success of the camp as merely
a catalyst to plan future joint crime prevention projects.
For further information, contact:
Seed Coordinator for the Mechanicsville and Pittsburgh sites