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Summer camp with a conscience

Service with a Twist, a new program for sixth- to eighth graders that includes opportunities for service as well as career exploration, begins Friday. The program is led by Independent School District 196 Community Education, and runs Monday through Friday, July 22 through Aug. 2 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Rosemount Middle School.

"It's our first year, so we kind of had to work out how long we wanted the program to be," Said Amanda Kuhn, youth services coordinator for community education. "We had an idea to have service learning, but we wanted it to be different so we added career exploration."

The program combines service to local non-profits while also teaching the youth about teamwork. They also get a chance to explore career paths, prepare for job interviews and take a look at each of their leadership styles.

The service sites are all local, most within walking distance of the middle school. The team leaders will take the youth to 360 Communities where they will pack groceries, Charity Events of MN where they will pack race bins for bike fundraisers as well as other local companies that need their help.

"The students will also be coming up with their own service learning project during the first week," Kuhn said. "(Then they will) take the plan and put it into action that second week."

For exploring their careers, speakers will come to the group to talk about different careers and how to get there. A veterinarian from the Shamrock Animal Hospital, the local S.W.A.T. team and sports marketers from Target Field are all on the schedule to speak to the students. They will also have Wings Financial come to speak to the students about financial literacy.

"One of the other things is that it's important that we are always having a reflection after we have a speaker or have gone on a field trip," Kuhn said. "That could be journaling or having an activity."

Kuhn hopes the reflection period will allow the students to learn about themselves or think about what they are considering for their future.

The program is geared towards those not quite old enough for a job who would like to spend their time off in the summer in a meaningful way.

"(We) decided on making it for middle school students because it's an age group we are trying to reach," Kuhn said. "We don't do a lot of programming with them. They are not old enough to get jobs, but are too old for youth enrichment programs."

There will be two team leaders from community education working with the students through their various activities, as well as teaching them team building exercises.

"I think it's an awesome opportunity to connect with people in their local community," Kuhn said. "Being able to do something that's meaningful, they are developing relationships with the youth in their groups but also the adults they are meeting."