Lowell’s Leadership Program Gives Inner City Kids a Summer Camp Experience

LOWELL – Jarronai Yary admits that on a lazy summer day, “I would definitely be on the phone. I’m always on my phone.”

Instead, the 13-year-old camper and 120 other campers spend the day playing, learning and growing.

“We want to give them something they can do this summer that will keep them active and make sure they’re learning at the same time,” said Larry Devon Wilson, president of the Lowell Youth Leadership Program.

Lowell’s first youth leadership program, for ages 10 to 16, is modeled after the former national youth sports program that helped people like Andres Lopez when he was growing up.

“I think it gave us access, it gave us connections, some of the friends I met there are still my friends now, so I wanted to recreate that experience for those kids,” said Lopez, director of the LYLP program.

The two-week LYLP is completely free for campers, with activities throughout the day including financial literacy, nutrition, swimming, robotics, and golf.

“The only big barrier for kids who live downtown is that they don’t have access to these other things. Like you never have access to golf. It’s too much money, don’t isn’t it,” Lopez said.

“I’m not used to, like, robotics and technical stuff and stuff. It was really interesting to see, like, things that I don’t think move move,” Yary said.

In addition to meals, free transportation is also provided to and from Greater Lowell Technical High School, and campers say they look forward to getting back on board.

“It’s been a lot of fun. I have a lot of fun and always look forward to coming here every day,” Yary said.

For LYLP, this is just the beginning, with plans for a longer program and more campers in the future.

“We hope that one day this camper can become me, become one of these counselors, or become someone who has shown leadership to him and then comes back and gives it back to his community,” Wilson said.

Kevin E. Boling