By Danna Johnson
VARDAMAN – Summer 2017 had a different flavor for about 35 children from Vardaman. This was possible thanks to the partnership between Vardaman Victory Project Enterpreneurial Learning Center (ELC), part of the University of Mississippi’s MacLean Institute, and Catholic Charities’ Vardaman office. The mission of this program was to provide a fun, educational experience for students to keep them engaged during the summer.
Karson Nelson, Seth Dickinson, and Jessica Clarke were the enthusiastic students from Ole Miss who brought to town this wonderful learning experience. The camp offered speakers, sports and games, engaging activities and enrichment opportunities. Local authorities and parents supported the effort as did businesses such as Sweet Potato Sweets, and Mi Valles Restaurant.
As part of the citizenship and civic enrichment, children had the opportunity to hear from Kenney Scott, Vardaman’s chief of police, about the importance of “making good choices in life, because every choice has a consequence.” He also spoke about falling prey to bad influences, drugs and delinquencies.
Janet Swindle, Director of the Vardaman Public Library, offered a marvelous class about gardening. Each child received a gardening container and planted seeds at the beginning of the summer program. Every week as they were watering and caring their plants, Swindle graciously cultivated the habit of reading in children’s minds and hearts. Each child also received a library card and were able to take home their favorite books and movies. At the end of this program children toured the Ole Miss campus, and closed with a symbolic evening ceremony where each child received a certificate of participation. Organizers wanted the participants to keep learning in the summer, develop healthy habits, and participate in experiences that built self-esteem.
The staff and board members of the Catholic Charities Northeast office are delighted with the outcome and offer thanks to all the supporters of our programs. It is our hope to continue to carry out the mission and vision of the Diocese of Jackson in everything we do: to serve, to embrace, and to inspire.
(Danna Johnson is the director of the Catholic Charities office in Vardaman.)
By Danna Johnson