Branden Kirby steadily and carefully applied a wide paintbrush over the side of a locker outside the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Golden Crescent, making sure purple paint covered every spot on the locker.
The 11-year-old had never painted a locker or building before this summer, and though the weather Thursday afternoon was hot and muggy, Branden didn’t mind the work.
“It’s actually fun. We get to help people and we learn to be independent,” Branden said.
For the past several weeks, children in the summer camp program at the Boys and Girls Club of Victoria have learned about community service, leadership skills, responsibility and social skills.
Most of the children are 8 years old through middle school, said Nicki Hagel, the education coordinator.
“We want to be able to instill in the children the kind of qualities (that) make a good leader and to make good choices and have the children asked themselves the question, ‘What kind of person do I hope to become?’” Hagel said.
Children discuss what characteristics do or do not create a strong leader and give examples of each. Camp counselor Alma Gutierrez, 20, said she became a part of the Boys and Girls Club to help guide young children.
Since many children are now more connected to technology, Gutierrez said she wants to help children be able to disconnect from the internet world of viral videos and learn about the community outside of their smartphones and tablets.
“Children are our future, and they need to see that we all need to take care of each other and to be more aware of others,” Gutierrez said. “Our communities will only be better for it.”
While the children do spend time playing games and learning about subjects such as robotics at the club, they also spend time each day committing to community service, Hagel said. The 10- to 12-year-old age group goes on field trips to the Senior Citizens Center to play bingo with seniors, while some of the children ages 11-12 years help deliver food with Meals on Wheels, mow lawns, clean and paint.
Through the trips, the children learn how to socialize and to be less shy, Hagel said.
“It (community service) opens up a whole new world for some of them, and hopefully they apply these skills in school,” Hagel said.
Elijah Flores, 11, said he has been a member of the Boys and Girls Club for several years. Elijah said he enjoys helping people and learning about skills such as painting. His favorite part of the summer so far is delivering meals to people with Meals on Wheels because he enjoys meeting new people.
“Sometimes you get to talk to people and get to know them. I’ve met veterans who were in the Vietnam War, and it was nice to talk to them,” Elijah said. “What we do is actually a privilege because you get to help people who need help, and we should all help each other.”