Amid bunches of blue balloons, the newest chapter of The Boys & Girls Club of Greater St. Louis held its first day of summer camp at Ferguson Middle School on Monday.
About 200 students — ages 6 to 15 — signed up for the full-day program, which includes outdoor activities, field trips, and classes. In the fall, students aged 6 to 18 will be able to visit for after-school activities.
Blessing Hasan, 14, said her mother signed her up, but she wanted to come for the arts and music classes offered at the camp. Living in Ferguson over the past year has been rough, she said.
“I live up the street from where Mike Brown got shot. There was a lot of looting, and some of the stores I live by got burned down. We didn’t have access to them so we had to go to other areas,” Hasan said. Lately, she said, the neighborhood has come back together.
During a ribbon cutting held in the school’s lunchroom Monday, Missouri congressman, William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, said that the day was a “statement of faith.”
“It means that we believe that the days ahead in Ferguson will be better than the past. It means that we believe that every child that passes through these doors is precious and irreplaceable,” Clay said to the group of assembled campers, counselors and media.
“We have an obligation to show [these kids] that even though tragic things happen, the future that they will build and the world that they will inherit will be better than today,” Clay said.
Private donors raised about half a million dollars for startup and operating costs for the first year of programming at Ferguson Middle School, said Shuntae Ryan, the spokesperson for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis. They included the Deaconess Foundation, the Regional Business Council and Centene.
Robert Givens, 15, an aspiring engineer, said he’s looking forward to field trips and robotics classes. The past year, he said, has been “hectic”. He lives just a few blocks from the Ferguson Police Station.
“I’m glad that the community is healing, and I’m glad that the new center is open. I feel like it will open a lot of opportunities for us,” Givens said.