A summer challenge for kids to be leaders


The kids in Leadership Camp got a break Friday; they skipped pushups.

There were no complaints and, surprisingly, no sighs of relief from the group, where the girls outnumber boys sitting at a ring of tables at Buttonwoods Community Center. Push-ups had become one of those first-of-the-morning routines to get moving.

On this final day of the four-day camp, run by the Warwick Police Department, campers would learn about the department’s K-9 unit; the SWAT team and climb a rock wall, provided for the occasion by the Rhode Island National Guard. They would also get to hear from the mayor, the police chief and Lt. Michael Gilbert.

“The goal [of the camp] is to get you to start thinking about what you want to do with your lives,” said Gilbert, who heads the department’s community services division. “Every one of you has the potential of being a leader.”

The camp had three four-day sessions during the summer, and the department’s school resource officers run it. Thirty-one elementary and junior high school aged children were enrolled in the session that ended Friday. An equal number are enrolled for the upcoming sessions. Generally, kids are not permitted to attend more than one session a summer, although they are welcome back the next year, if they haven’t moved to high school.

Daphne Eckert will be an eighth grader at Gorton this fall and Hannah French will be attending Gorton for the first time.

“You get to make new friends,” said Daphne.

She said she particularly enjoyed the day the group completed the ropes training at URI. For Hannah, the camp is “just a lot of fun. We do so many things.”

“There’s never a dull moment,” she said.

Dennis Amerantes, the resource officer at Pilgrim, finds that kids “come in shy, not knowing each other and leave as a family.”

The camp had been previously run in cooperation with the National Guard and the campers got to spend a night at Camp Fogarty in East Greenwich. Fogarty also has ropes training.

When federal budget cuts ended Adventure Camp, as it was called, the police department and the city’s human services division stepped in to ensure it kept going.

“We didn’t want to lose a good thing,” said Amerantes.

He said a lot of planning goes into running the camp. Of all the programs, he has found the CSI, where the campers visit New England Institute of Technology and work through a mock crime scene, to be of particular interest.

The camp can spark interest in police work, which the kids can pursue as cadets in the department’s Explorer program.

Mayor Scott Avedisian thanked the kids for spending some of their vacation in camp. He also touched on the camp’s role in building leadership skills and teamwork.

Col. Steven McCartney told the campers that summer vacation can be viewed as a time “to chill out” and take a break from school. On the other hand, by attending camp, he said, “You have the opportunity to challenge yourself. I hope you get everything you can out of it.”


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