Approximately 40 children learned about community heroes and how to be super citizens during the week-long Civic Heroes Camp hosted by the Office of Civic Engagement at Troy University from July 18-22.
The third annual event was held in person for the first time since its creation in 2020, and Civic Engagement Coordinator Lauren Cochran said it was everything her staff imagined it would be.
“We built in lots of fun things for them to do, but it was also a great time of learning and getting to meet a lot of new people,” she said. “We were really excited to transform the recreational gym into a superhero hub.”
At Civic Heroes Camp, campers become superheroes-in-training and build their own communities, run their cities and help their neighbors. Campers also participate in creative games, activities and civic lessons that teach about government and what it means to be a good citizen.
“Through our gardening program, we learned that summer needs to be about fun and relationships, so while we are hoping the content gets through, we wanted to make sure it’s fun and engaging and they enjoyed their week here,” Cochran said.
The campers were visited by a new community hero each day, including a nurse, a firefighter and a police officer and his K-9 companion, Milo.
“I really liked the community heroes, especially getting to hear the police officer,” said Savannah Henderson, 11, of Troy. “He told us about how his job works, and I liked seeing his police dog.”
Cochran said having the children meet heroes from their own community made what they taught throughout the week more real.
“They like to ask the mayor the silliest questions, like what he eats for lunch and what he wears to work, what time he wakes up and when he goes to bed,” she said, “but they just want to know his perspective and what makes him human like they are. These conversations bring the whole thing to life.”
Hayes West, 10, of Troy said his favorite part of camp was making new friends and learning about responsibility and respect.
“They taught us ways that we can be responsible, like picking up our trash and holding the door open for someone,” he said. “And the police officer taught us about how a dog can sniff out drugs when it walks in a room.”
Henderson spent her free-play time playing volleyball with her new friends, but also liked learning about the government.
“We learned about the Constitution, the branches of government and how to be respectful and responsible,” she said.
The camp was made possible thanks to a grant from the David Matthews Center for Civic Life and its Jean O’Connor-Snyder Internship Program (JOIP). Located in Montevallo, Ala., the Center strives to build skills, habits and capacities for more effective civic engagement and innovative decision making and is active in all of Alabama’s 67 counties.
Zara Green, Education Director at the Center, said camps like these are vital to educating young children on the importance of civic education and commended TROY and Cochran for hosting the camp for the last three years.
“A lot of kids, especially at this age, may not know about what’s involved in civics. Civic education is one of the lowest-funded subjects in schools, so this kind of camp gives them a neutral, fact-based overview of what civics is, how to get involved in their communities and why it’s important to be responsible, civic-minded individuals,” she said. “It goes beyond just voting and shows them how to become informed. The sooner they learn these concepts, the better citizens they can be.
“This is a unique program with our JOIP interns, and I think it’s great. TROY has been with us for several years now participating in our programs, and I wish there were more camps like this one at TROY across Alabama and beyond.”