Kalli Kennel, the specialized prevention services coordinator for Youth and Shelter Services of Ames, is busy with preparations for the Food For Thought and Little Spartans’ Summer Camp summer programs in Nevada and Collins.


Kennel said sign-up forms for the summer programs are now available in each of the Nevada and Collins-Maxwell schools’ offices, and also at the community libraries in Nevada and Collins.


Kennel, a graduate of Iowa State University, has been working with YSS since August of 2015 and managing the Nevada Food for Thought program since the summer of 2016. She enjoys working on the summer programming. “I love it. I love the variety… and that every day is something different for the kiddos.”


Nevada’s program will see a shift in location this summer, from Central Elementary to the middle school building on 15th Street.


Food For Thought and Little Spartans’ Summer Camp are open to any youth who has completed pre-school through the eighth grade. Any student 18 years old or younger is welcome to come for the meal if signed up. In fact, Kennel said, she’s currently searching for volunteers, and high school-age students often find this a great volunteer opportunity, because not only can they earn volunteer hours toward silver cords and other honors, but they can have a meal, free of charge.


She needs more than just student volunteers, though. Kennel is reaching out to find adults in both the Nevada and Collins-Maxwell school district to consider helping with the programs. Volunteers are a critical element of making the programs work.


Nevada enrolls about 110 students; Collins-Maxwell enrolled 81 its first year and 62 its second year and has room for 90 total students.


“We’d like at least eight to 10 adult volunteers as classroom assistants (for the C-M program) and 12-16 adults in Nevada, due to the larger number of kids,” she said. Adults can help in many ways, both at the program site and by serving as chaperones on field trips that will be taken.


The Nevada program is planned to run June 10 through July 18, every weekday except Friday, and the program will not meet on July 4. The C-M program is scheduled to run June 3 through July 11, and also will not meet on July 4. These dates, Kennel advised, may have to be changed if the number of snow days this school year push back the school closing dates.


Educational programming is from 8:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. each day, with snacks and a meal included.


Food For Thought started out as a program dedicated to making sure school-age children have a good meal once a day during the summer months. Through the years, in Nevada, the program evolved into an opportunity to provide summer learning activities as well.


This year, Kennel is busy preparing for those summer learning activities and is working hand-in-hand with the local libraries, because these programs match the state libraries’ summer reading theme. This year’s theme is “A Universe of Stories.”


The local newspaper will be involved in helping bring that theme to light, by working with students in Nevada for a few of the days to help them learn to write stories. Other fun things the week will involve, Kennel shared, include:


• working at Iowa Gardening for Good near Madrid


• experiencing the Urbandale Schools’ Star Lab, which will be brought to the children here


• visits to Paragon in Nevada (for the Nevada site participants) to tour the facility, learn about rolled ice cream, 3-D printer projects and more


• a trip to Reiman Gardens, which is featuring Rubik’s cubes and life-size games this year


• practicing math skills at the local bowling alley


• video blogging


Kennel said none of the things these summer programs are able to do would be possible without great partners that help YSS with the programming.


In Nevada, for instance, Dave Swegle at Paragon helps with many needs, including working with kids on engineering projects and allowing kids to visit the company and learn things on-site. Swegle also, through his company, is paying for the kids’ tickets to Reiman Gardens, and any cost associated with the bowling activity. Burke Corp. has provided staff members to help with serving meals one day a week. And there are other businesses that step up to help in various ways.


Agencies and organizations that support these summer programs include United Way, both the Nevada and Collins-Maxwell school districts, Boys & Girls Club, Iowa Reading Corps, ISU and Story County Extension, the Nevada Library, Camp Canwita and Campfire in Ames and the Volunteer Center of Story County.


If you want your child to be signed up for the Nevada program, don’t wait too long. Nevada’s program has a maximum of 110 kids and is usually full. The program does have an attendance requirement for children being present at least 20 of the 23 total days. “So if you are planning a week vacation during these weeks, then your child would not be able to make the attendance commitment,” she said, noting that some absences, like being sick, are obviously excused.


As mentioned in the first part of this story, forms are now available at the school offices and at the local libraries.


Those adults or businesses interested in volunteering, or helping in any way, may contact Kennel at: KKennel@yss.org.