Joseph Pfeifer Kiwanis Camp
The Alternative Classroom Experience is a cooperative venture with the Little Rock School District, Pulaski County Special School District, and the Jacksonville North Pulaski School District. Students in the third, fourth, and fifth grades who are not doing as well in school or at home as they should be are eligible to participate in the program.
Students are recommended through their teachers, counselors, or principals at their regular school. Parents may also refer their child to the program. A major component of the ACE program is parental guidance that's part of weekly parent meetings.
ACE provides a unique adventure to make a difference in the lives of elementary students. ACE begins with students arriving on Sunday afternoon and staying until Friday afternoon for five weeks. The fifth and fourth graders session are five weeks while the third grade session is four weeks long. During this time they will be housed in log and rock cabins with 8-10 other students and two adult counselors. They will learn that this group becomes like a family in the days ahead.
Classes are held in a one-room classroom for about forty students. Two certified teachers and several counselors test, teach, guide, discipline, and support these students in learning. Students start at their present capable level and work toward attaining their current grade level. Students have homework at night and occasionally night school. Success in the program culminates in a graduation ceremony at the end of the program. Participants are awarded a diploma, a camp medal, and an invitation to one week of summer camp.
But as hard as they have to work, camp is also a lot of fun. Camping outdoors is a real event and most campers participate at least once a week. Here they learn responsibility by packing their tent, sleeping bag, food, etc. and setting up their camp site, building a camp fire, cooking their meal, and leaving the campsite as it was when they came. This gives practice in team work, cooperation, trust, and ecological stewardship. Campers participate in many outdoor activities in addition to campouts. Exercise, fun, and learning go hand in hand.
June and July are busy months at Pfeifer Kiwanis Camp. Summer camp usually begins one week after the last day of classes in the local school districts. There are five regular weeks of camp, each camper is allowed to come to one week. Youth who are between the ages of 9 and 14 may participate in the Summer Camp Program. Campers who attended the A.C.E. program are invited back for a week of fun with no homework involved. Although the summer program is primarily for youth who are at-risk and live in Pulaski County, a number of campers come from all over Arkansas to participate in the fun.
Camp registration begins at 9:00 a.m. on Monday of each week. There campers are checked for all the proper paperwork and assigned to a cabin with two counselors. By noon all campers are already beginning to get in the groove with a delicious meal. Schedules are set up and the action begins. Camp ends on Friday with campers being picked up between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.
In addition to meeting new people and making new friends, there is swimming every day, canoeing on the Little Maumelle River, hiking in the hills. Then there are arts and crafts, s'mores, all kinds of games, and of course, camping. All of these activities require a lot of help and the C.I.T.'s (Counselors in Training) fill in to help in all areas of the program.
The summer program was the initial program by the Kiwanis Club of Downtown Little Rock. Nothing is more memorable than days at camp for youth. And it is done so that no child pays to come to Pfeifer Camp. For many years, Kiwanis has provided the funding so that at-risk and under privileged youth can have wilderness experiences and get out of the city.
Campers who are well behaved, participate in the activities, and show them selves special in other ways may be nominated for "Honor Camp." It consists of sixty campers who spend a week doing the most exciting things. Some years honor campers make an out-of-state trip, some years they visit special places in Arkansas, and some years they do a combination of these. They may visit a museum, city hall, Six Flags, Magic Springs or any one of a number of other sites. They also dine at various restaurants. The last morning parents are invited, along with Kiwanis members, to have breakfast together. More than 200 people attend this party.
Counselor's in Training (CIT's) provide a very beneficial service to the camp. These volunteers are between the ages of 14 and 17 and are previous campers who are chosen because they have shown themselves to be dependable and willing to work hard. They serve as assistants to the summer counselors, work in the kitchen, arts and crafts, games, and the cabins. They are the ones who hold true the values and efforts that is Pfeifer Camp, growing from children to positive young adults within the program. AmeriCorps Volunteers essentially change each year but these young people are the ones who show what Pfeifer Camp is all about and many times help guide our volunteers through our summer program.