Listen, then talk, children taught

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A day camp designed to help elementary school students speak more articulately began Tuesday morning with an activity that required them to listen.

To complete the exercise, dubbed the “blind trust walk” by camp organizers Sharonda Medina and Kim Stribling, each camper had to walk blindfolded through the cavernous halls of the Southern Cultural Heritage Center’s Adams Street complex, assisted only by a fellow camper whose sight was unobstructed.

“It was fun,” said Jackson Oaks, 10, a fourth-grader at Beechwood Elementary. “I learned how to trust my partner and how to describe things better.”

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Those were the objectives of Medina and Stribling, professional motivational speakers whose Vicksburg company, Legacy, has previously been hired to develop teamwork, leadership and communications skills among college basketball teams, church staffs and academic leaders.

This week’s camp — officially named Speak Up!  A Communication Class for Kids  — aims to foster the same qualities among fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders from the area. Timed to coincide with the Vicksburg Warren School District’s intercession week, the camp ends today.

Attendees interview each other, engage in role-playing exercises and deliver a persuasive speech on a subject of their choice.

The camp also includes training in the arts of leadership and teamwork. On Tuesday, for instance, the organizers called on the students to make up the rules that will govern the camp. “We didn’t write the rules down beforehand,” Stribling said. “We wanted them to have a chance to work with each other to find good rules, and to understand the reasons why good rules are good rules.”

There is a need for such training in the age of the Internet, Medina said.

“It’s tempting to just rely on the Internet and e-mail for communication,” she said. “So face-to-face communication is something that tends to be neglected. But it shouldn’t be.”

The students at the camp said meeting new people from other schools also made the event worthwhile.

Stephanie Flowers, 11, a sixth-grader at Bovina Elementary School, said that she originally wanted to come to the camp because she wanted to learn how to speak more comfortably in front of audiences.  “But it’s also been great to meet new people,” she said.

Annette Kirklin, Southern Cultural Heritage Center director, said the camp was part of an effort by the center to help young people in the community develop speaking skills.

Tuition was charged for this week.

The center also offers other youth programs, such as an after-school art program and a creative writing workshop for area youth, and some have no cost.


Contact Ben Bryant at