Detroit kids go to camp to do things they can't do in the city

Jul 23, 2014

Detroit students get to practice archery at Camp Burt Shurly.
Detroit students get to practice archery at Camp Burt Shurly.
Credit Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

This week on State of Opportunity, we’re going to summer camp!

I spent this past Monday with about 100 elementary school students at Camp Burt Shurly, a 250-acre campground near Chelsea. The week-long, overnight camp is run by the Detroit Public School district. Each Sunday a new set of campers arrives by bus. There's tons to do here – everything from boating and swimming to arts and crafts, nature hikes and archery. And because the camp is run by a school district, the campers have to take math and English classes, too, to help combat the "summer slide" many kids face.

Camp is paid for with Title 1 funds, so it's free for DPS students, many of whom might not be able to afford camp otherwise. 

I probably talked to about 50 kids while I was there, and every single one of them had something good to say about their time at camp. Seven-year old Kayla Nawden says she learned how to swim for the first time. Her advice for other newbies? "You hold your arms out...and your feet has to, you know, pedal." 

Camp Burt Shurly is a free, overnight camp for low-income kids from Detroit.
Camp Burt Shurly is a free, overnight camp for low-income kids from Detroit.
Credit Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

A lot of the kids are big fans of archery. I asked for some archery tips, and the kids were more than happy to give me some. "Hold it straight and concentrate," says Delann Pillivant. "Just go for it," adds 11-year old Elaina Marcum.

The camp director, Carlin Forbes, says the kids at the camp get to experience things that they can't experience in the city. "They get to get away from their homes," says Forbes, "and get into an environment where they can experience things like hiking." He says when the kids walk through the woods they "learn how to walk quietly so that they can see different animals."

Some of the creatures spotted include deer, bull frogs, toads, and snapping turtles. Oh my!

Take a listen to the kids as they splish, splash and sing their way through the camp day. Listen closely and you might just hear the sound of a future radio star in the making...