Since the beginning of the summer, campers in the Martin Luther King Jr. Center’s summer program have been preparing acts for the end-of-camp talent show. On Aug. 24, all their hard work came to fruition.
In anticipation for their performances, most of the campers said that they weren’t tense. Pat Morris, the MLK Center’s director, said that didn’t surprise him. “These kids don’t get nervous,” he said. At worst, William Morris said that he was “excited, slash nervous.”
Manu Alford, a 12-year-old counselor-in-training, said that he had a good time during the summer camp. “It’s fun playing with the kids,” he said. “We’d go to the park, play basketball.”
When Chauncey Mitchell, a 65-year-old counselor who Pat said “wears many hats” at the center called for quiet, it took a minute for the excited campers to settle down. But when they did, Mitchell opened up about what the camp meant to him, and what he hoped it meant to the campers.
“For the youngsters in our program, leave with this: you’ve touched each and every one of us in a special way,” Mitchell said. “You might not know it until a later time, but you influence what we do, and we hope we were an influence to you.”
Mitchell thanked the counselors for their work, and especially the CITs. “What we had was youngins watching youngins,” he said, “and that’s no easy task.” He added that he was grateful to the parents for entrusting their kids to the Center, and celebrated that the campers would return to their parents entirely intact, “and maybe a little better.”
The campers came on in groups for their performances. The crowd was enthusiastic, frequently singing and dancing along with the campers. For the older kids’ routines, when one of them did a particularly impressive move, the cheering often drowned out the music.
After all the groups had gone, the CIT running the music played a song fit for a dance party, which promptly materialized at the front of the room. Campers formed one large mosh pit, shouting and singing along.
Mitchell stood in the doorway, bidding farewell to campers and their families as they left. Every so often, he took a step back, turned his face, and wiped a tear from his eye.
For more information about the MLK Center, visit http://www.rvcny.us/mlk.html.