Pulaski camp a creative alternative
RADFORD — It’s unlikely that taking a high school physical education class in the middle of summer ranks very high on the typical teenager’s summertime to-do list.
For more than 100 Pulaski County students, however, earning a P.E. credit has become one of their top priorities this month.
The 116 rising ninth- and 10th-grade students have spent the majority of their first month of summer vacation attending Camp Cougar, a program that combines a variety of outdoor activities and classroom health lessons according to each grade level’s course requirements.
In order to achieve the required 140 hours for a credited course, most of the camp’s days begin at 8 a.m. and rarely end earlier than 4 p.m., with student attendance mandatory each day.
The camp also costs each student $250, but according to Camp Cougar coordinator Gina Miano, the fee hasn’t swayed interest in the program.
Miano, who has worked with the program since it began in 1994, said that over the past 10 years the program has been so popular they’ve had to hold a lottery in order to decide which students get to fill the 116 spots.
Many of the students selected in this year’s lottery said their friends in neighboring school districts often question why the students want to spend their summer break “doing gym.”
Many of the Camp Cougar crowd found that opinion to be very shortsighted.
“It’s really not P.E. It’s like fun activities in the place of P.E.,” said 10th-grader Kenndi Boyd.
Boyd and her classmates listed many of the activities they had already participated in this summer. Hiking, caving, and canoe and raft trips all made the list, along with two days of water-based activities at the Boy Scouts of America’s Claytor Lake Aquatics Base.
Such a schedule provides not only an appropriate amount of exercise for the students, but also opportunities for many of them to have new experiences, which, according to 10th-grade course instructor Scott Vest, they might never have the chance to participate in again.
Student Chelsea Golden agreed.
“If I didn’t do Camp Cougar, I’d never get to do rafting or stuff like that,” she said.
For other students, the activities provide a much-needed reason to stay off the couch.
“If I wasn’t doing this I would be sitting at home right now,” Alex Williams said.
Williams admitted she wasn’t a fan of the school’s traditional gym classes but felt differently about Camp Cougar.
“It’s much more fun to do this than playing dodgeball,” she said.
While the fun activities are the draw for many of the students, others said they like being able to go ahead and earn their P.E. credit, which allows them to take an extra course during the school year.
Such is the case for Tyler Harrison, who said he not only wanted to get his P.E. and health class out of the way but that he was also looking forward to completing the course’s 36-hour driver’s education program.
Harrison said taking the course through Camp Cougar was more fun than taking it during the school year because he felt the students were able to do more activities along with their course work.
As an example, Harrison told of earlier in the week when the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department brought in goggles that simulate intoxication to their classes and allowed the students to attempt to drive golf carts while wearing them. He said the officers also put the students through field sobriety tests while wearing the goggles.
Despite whether it was the determining factor of their participation, each student who completes Camp Cougar can take a class in place of their P.E. class this coming school year. This will allow students to earn extra credits toward graduation, while also giving many the opportunity to explore new courses they otherwise would not have had the time to experience.
According to Miano, each student will also receive the added perk of having Venturer status with the Boy Scouts, allowing the students to participate in a variety of Scout activities, free of charge, throughout the year.
Though there seems to be plenty for students to gain from the Camp Cougar experience, Golden was quick to point out the one thing she had lost during the often six-day-a-week schedule.
“You get no sleep,” Golden said, “but the experience was completely worth it.”
The Roanoke Times | 381-1643
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