CLINTON — Dozens of area kids ages 12 to 14 are participating in a three-week sports camp, all the while learning how to be healthy and stay away from drugs.

The camp began last week at Ashford University’s Durgin Center. During the three weeks, the kids not only participate in group sports, they also attend life skills training sessions that teach them things that lead to good sportsmanship and healthy life choices.

“The kids learn about making positive choices, life skills they would need to compete on any sports team,” said New Directions Prevention Specialist Leslie Mussmann.

Last week, girls involved in the program played volleyball while the boys played football. This week the kids participated in a basketball clinic. Next week, boys will play baseball while the girls play softball or practice cheerleading. Kids who achieve perfect attendance through each week are entered in a weekly drawing for prizes including a bike, an MP3 player and a CD player.

The participants were recruited through Washington and Lyons middle schools. There is no cost to attend the summer sports camp. Three students who demonstrate good sportsmanship during the camp will receive scholarships that can be used for other Ashford University camps.

Mussmann said the purpose of the camp is twofold, to help kids who have athletic ability but may not have the means to participate in sports and to teach them to understand the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship. Coaches from Ashford University, members of New Directions and employees of Iow@Work volunteered their time to serve as coaches, mentors and camp counselors. Mussmann said the volunteers have been great.

“Without the help of all these people, this camp would not have been possible,” said Mussmann.

She added that Ashford University has been an excellent partner in hosting the program.

”They’ve been a good partner for us. They’ve given us more than we ever hoped we’d get,” Mussmann said. “They’ve donated the coaches, the facility, the equipment. They’ve been really great.”

This is the first year of the sports camp. Organizers say they are hoping to host the camp again next year. Any middle school student interested in signing up for next year’s camp can contact a school counselor.

The sports camp is part of a 21st Century program, which provides educational and recreational opportunities for area students. Some of the funding for the camp was provided by a grant from the Gateway Addiction Prevention Project through the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The camp was sponsored by the Clinton Substance Abuse Council, New Directions, Ashford University and the Clinton School District.

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