NORTH ADAMS — For many of the nearly 300 city students enrolled at the North Adams Public Schools Summer Science Camp at Brayton Elementary School, the four-week sessions are a source of enjoyment.
For instance, on Tuesday, during a kickball game pitting city police officers against about 20 campers, sixth-grade student Elijah Goodermote scored his first-ever home run.
"My heart was racing, my nerves were wrecked," Elijah said, describing the tense third-base moments as he waited to make the dash toward home plate. "This is my first home run ever and it feels great. I scored a run against the police and I feel almost like an evil genius."
There is no evil intent toward officers however, Elijah quickly pointed out.
"I love that they came to play with us," he said. "They are willing to do anything with us. This is the best ever memory. I am never going to forget this memory, this class and these police officers."
The game was organized by city teacher James "Jim" Holmes, City police Sgt. Jason Wood and Officers Anthony Beverly, Kyle Cahoon, Nicholas Kaiser, David Lemieux, and John Beaudreau made up the police team. Police Dispatcher Barbara Brucato brought grapes, oranges and water to the game and Lemieux used personal funds to provide frozen ice pops.
"We're building relationships with kids of the community," Wood said. "The kids like to see us, and they are very receptive to our endeavors. There's so much going on in the world right now, hopefully we can turn it around a little bit here in North Adams."
City Police Director Michael Cozzaglio, Sgt. James Burdick and North Adams Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Malkas watched the game progress.
"This is great," Cozzaglio said. "Things like this happen because of Jim Holmes, with his school connections, and because of our officers who are willing to be involved with our children. Our officers do want to be involved and this is a testament to that."
Burdick recently led 60 children on a police station tour, and the yearly ROPES camp, which relies heavily on police officer volunteers, was held last week with about 100 children attending, Cozzaglio said.
With the 20 children involved with the kickball game, "that's nearly 200 kids we've interacted with in two weeks," Burdick said.
Additionally, Officer Al Zoito visited the camp session with his K-9 partner and Beaudreau used personal funds to buy frozen treats and deliver them to campers and also to people at Windsor Lake.
Malkas acknowledged the importance of the police involvement with the children.
"This is an excellent example of the wraparound of community involvement in education," she said. "In the past, parents taught children that the police were safe, that they were there to help. Today, that may not be the case and the media paints a different picture. This is very important so that children can see police in a positive way."
Noella Carlow is the district site coordinator for the 21st century After School and Summer Science Camp program. The camp had a waiting list of 40 children unable to attend this year, she said.
"I call this my education Utopia," said the former teacher.
Carlow said that in addition to this year's "Kids Commotion to Save the Ocean" theme, the program is offering a leadership venture, teaching values such as work before play and how to be a good team member. The Brayton lobby walls are covered with dozens of ocean view shadow boxes created by students and a large display table decorated with fish and laden with books. Horseshoe crab shells and other sea life examples greets all visitors. The slogan "Individually We are One Drop, Together We are an Ocean" is written out and is easy to see.
Faith Karl, 10, said she has attended the camp every year except last year.
"It's awesome,every year its a different theme," Faith said. "Tomorrow we are going to dissect a starfish. Everything about this camp is good."
Josiah Hylton, 11, who attends the Berkshire Arts and Technology charter school, said that being at the camp and competing against police officers makes for a very fine summer.
"It's pretty cool that I tagged five officers 'out'" he said. "It's pretty cool that they play with us, that they forget their job for an hour and come do this. That's pretty awesome.'
"I love dealing with the kids this way," Burdick said. "Our officers all believe in getting involved and we enjoy these interactions with the kids."