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Dabo Foundation Supports Leadership Camp

posted Jun 1, 2017, 9:37 AM by Deborah Wickliffe   [ updated Jun 1, 2017, 9:48 AM ]
The Leadership Camp, sponsored by the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office and the School District of Oconee County, recently received a $5000 grant from "Dabo’s All In®” Team Foundation formed by Coach Swinney and his wife Kathleen. The mission of their foundation is to raise awareness of critical education and health issues in order to change lives of people across the state of South Carolina. The funds will allow the Leadership Camp to expand the number of participants within the camp.  

Three years ago, Evie Hughes, SDOC Director of Student Services, Lt. Mark Lyles and the school resource officers, from the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office, met to discuss ideas for reaching students at-risk for dropping out of school. The group decided to target boys between the ages of 10 and 14 and offer a summer Leadership Camp. The goal of the camp was to help these young men develop skills they would need to change some habits of the past and plot a more positive future. Part of the strategy would be to raise awareness of law enforcement officers by developing personal relationships between officers and the boys.

“The first year the camp was held we were not sure what to expect, so we regrouped throughout the next school year. Last summer was our second camp and it went much more smoothly. We are ready to expand now and these funds will allow us to do that. We are very excited about this opportunity,” said Mrs. Hughes, “

During the camp, School Resource Officers participate as team leaders. The participating students are divided into groups of five or six students and are paired with an SRO.  There are daily competitions, activities, and team building challenges.

“When a group failed to complete a task, push-ups were required,” laughed Mark Lyles. “Even the adults had to do them.” The SROs were the main team leaders, but deputies and other officers came by on their days off to volunteer and participate. “This camp is that important to us,” continued Lyles. “Everyone who could do so came by to participate.”

The camp lasts for one week, but the relationships with the SROs, as well as other law enforcement officers, continue throughout the year. When officers see any of the participants, they make a point to say something and engage the students in conversation to let them know they are important.

Mrs. Hughes and Cpl. Chris Roach collected some feedback information from last year’s participants. They were interested in finding out which parts of camp the students enjoyed the most and what impact the students felt the camp had on them long-term.

“We did not expect that 10-14 year old boys would self-assess or have insight into questions about long term impact,” Mrs. Hughes said. “But we were amazed at some of the comments. One boy said that the camp made him realize that his behavior was what was causing him problems,” she continued. “That is such a life-changing realization that we felt honored to have had a part in that change.”

Throughout the spring, school administrators and guidance counselors fill out referrals for camp participants. Typically, the referrals are based on poverty, lack of male role models, and discipline issues but any student can be nominated to attend. The group is currently prioritizing the applications and will soon notify those who are selected.

“This camp is about building relationships,” said Mrs. Hughes. “This is vitally important to these boys. Change is hard and slow. We might only have small numbers, but we are making large changes in the lives of these boys.”

“Helping these young men to develop character, build more positive relationships with law enforcement and become better citizens is important to us,” said Lt. Lyles.