Students combine love of sports, interest in writing at summer camp

Students combine love of sports, interest in writing at summer camp

Local participants in Rhode Island Write on Sports summer camp gather for a picture at Bryant University last week. (Breeze photo by Amanda Levenson)

SMITHFIELD – At Rhode Island Write on Sports, young people learn skills that combine the job field and the outfield.

The two-week summer sports writing camps and after-school programs for at-risk middle school students serve a total of 60 students from Central Falls, Pawtucket, Woonsocket, Providence and Cranston.

“The goal is to get the kids more comfortable and confident with the writing process, so that when they get an assignment in school, it’s easier to tackle it,” said Steven Krasner, a retired Providence Journal sports writer and executive director of the nonprofit Rhode Island Write on Sports.

The program began at Calcutt Middle School in Central Falls and remained there for its first two years. The camp moved to Providence College last year, and opened an additional camp this year at Bryant University in Smithfield.

On a typical day at the Bryant location, children take the bus to camp and arrive around 9 a.m. After an introduction from teachers and some icebreakers, they dive into their day’s work, which includes researching, writing, public speaking, interviewing, editing, and video broadcasting.

Nicholas Ricci is a teacher at the Bryant camp, and spends the school year teaching at the Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy Middle School in Central Falls.

According to Ricci, campers learn academic skills and life skills. They are exposed to the writing process, computer skills, deadlines, and story angles, as well as independence, discipline, and integrity.

“It’s very student-driven. We’re helping them along, but for the most part, they’re brainstorming on their own, coming up with their own topics, and writing their first drafts on their own,” he said.

Jalisa Ramos, 12, of Pawtucket, decided to write her feature story on sumo wrestling. She jumps at the opportunity to share facts she’s learned, such as that sumo wrestlers consume around 20,000 calories a day.

Ramos said it’s nice to be in a setting where the majority of students are focused and putting in effort, which isn’t always the case at school.

“Everyone’s here for a reason … it’s how we’re going to get into college, and college is important to me,” she said. “I want to get a good job and make a lot of money, to give my mom an easier time because she had six kids that she raised all by herself.”

Two weeks ago, campers attended a PawSox game and had the chance to interview the coach and several players, and last week they had a mock press conference with a former player from the New England Patriots, Tom Clayton.

Camp intern Jessamy LeBeau, 21, former editor of the Community College of Rhode Island’s newspaper The Unfiltered Lens, said the students not only learn what it means to be a journalist, but also how to be a high school student.

“It’s nice because it bridges that gap between middle school writing and high school writing for a lot of them,” she said.

“The skills that they’re going to really need in the classroom in the fall, they get the one-on-one attention here so that way when that time comes, they already know what they should be doing and how to do it,” LeBeau added.

Julian Rodriguez, 13, of Central Falls, said that he considers the camp fun because he gets to meet new people and learn about them.

Rodriguez said he’s learned how important it is to share people’s stories, to be polite while interviewing, to ask the right questions, and to speak carefully.

“The people want to know (these stories), and as a job, you need to tell the people what they want to hear,” he said. “I never knew about this. It can be life lessons and teachings.”

Rodriguez said that if he wasn’t at camp, he would probably spend the two weeks playing PS4 and hanging out with friends. Write on Sports, he said, encourages him to learn during the summer.

To Ricci, this is another way the camp has a positive influence.

“Any time you’re getting them into the classroom – writing, reading, using any of those literacy skills – it’s a huge help,” said Ricci.

Ultimately, Krasner said the camp is just another way to supplement and reinforce what kids are learning in school. It gives them the extra practice that can translate into a better academic performance.

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