As much as any kid looks forward to summer vacation, summertime doesn’t look the same for all middle school students. Some may have vacations planned, camps to attend, and family to spend time with. But others often find themselves stuck at home with nothing to do. For many of the kids that are involved with YOKE during the school year, summer can be a lonely time, or even a time to get into trouble if they have no positive influences investing in their lives. At YOKE, we believe that mentor relationships are vital to any child, and not just during the school year. That’s why every Tuesday in June, the students of the schools we serve have a chance to participate in our Summer Adventures Program.
This year, we took 57 students on four different Summer Adventures. At each of these events, we had around 25 adult leaders present to invest in the lives of kids by simply having fun with them. Each trip provided kids and leaders with a chance to step out of their comfort zone and build relationships in unfamiliar, and sometimes challenging environments.
The first adventure on June 5th was a whitewater rafting trip on the Pigeon River, a favorite from last year. On June 12th, we hiked two trails at Frozen Head State park, where kids had a chance to see beautiful waterfalls, climb rocks, and get wet in the creek. The third trip on June 19th took place at Ijams Nature center, where kids go kayaking on the river and try the challenging Navitat Ropes Course. The last trip on June 26th was a day spent at Pigeon Forge Community Center bowling, swimming, and playing volleyball.
“I loved Summer Adventures because it was a chance to get out of the house and do something active, while also making new friends and learning about Jesus,” says Eli, an 8th grader at Alcoa Middle School. “I had a great time on all the trips, and enjoyed getting to help the YOKE Folk out with setup, moving supplies, and handing out lunches.” Eli plans to participate in the Future Folk program next year as a high school student, and attended all four Summer Adventures events. He found himself building new friendships with kids from other schools, who he normally would not have a chance to interact with.
If you’d like to support YOKE so that kids like Eli can continue to find community even during the summer, visit our donations page. The work of developing and maintaining meaningful relationships does not end over summer vacation, and that’s why we believe the Summer Adventures program is so vital to the kids that we serve.