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First Person: Sunday Youmans, teen summer camp founder

 

Introducing our new interview series, featuring community members with unique stories to tell

Story by Ada Wood

Photos provided by Sunday Youmans

 

July 29, 2022

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How we reported this story:  Canopy Atlanta asked the Bankhead community member about the journalism they needed and this story emerged during that listening work. Canopy Atlanta also trains and pays community members, our Fellows, to learn reporting skills to better serve their community. Support our community-powered work today.

SUNDAY YOUMANS IS A 16-year-old student attending Pebblebrook High School. Before she moved to Fairburn, Georgia, she lived in College Park for 12 years, where her world collided with 20 kids who became a significant part of her life. Canopy Atlanta met Youmans during listening work for our Bankhead issue, while she was running her Sunday Special Kids Summer Camp at the Maddox Park pool. This is the story behind her summer camp—which is making big waves in the lives of little ones. It is in her own voice, as told to Ada Wood.

 

LAST YEAR, MY MOM met some kids living with their parents in a hotel, through our church. She started bringing the kids food every day to help them out. Their living conditions—it wasn’t right. She just wanted to make their life better for the time being. Eventually I started running my own summer camp with these kids. Last year was the first one, I had 20 kids, ages two to 12. 

 

This year, my camp is still going with ten kids, the same ones from last year’s group. I plan activities with them throughout the summer until August when school is back in session. We’ve done physical activities and educational ones. We visited the swimming pool, [the] library, Spelman College, Zoo Atlanta, and Georgia Aquarium. We’re helping the kids out with food and giving them some entertainment. It’s summer. You want to have fun, and shouldn’t no kid go through the struggle, even though their parents are struggling.

 

Most of the money to fund it comes through donations at the church. But my mom has pulled from her own pockets for food and even swimsuits, or church clothes from the thrift store on occasion. 

 

We also have kids with special needs. We had one kid, he has autism. Even though he has a learning disability, it doesn’t matter. We give the kids time to have fun and still be a child, even though they are going through a hard situation. One time, I took the kids to the movies. I felt sad at first, because I go to the movies regularly, but these kids had never experienced it. 

 

One of the little girls had been experiencing inappropriate touching by her own father. She also had kept using the bathroom on herself, which her mother would hit her for. When she had used the bathroom on herself while with us, the little girl was terrified that me or my mom would find out and be upset. 

 

My mom almost adopted her. But the little girl is in a better situation now—living with her aunt, with her father in jail. I asked her, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” She was like, “Sunday, I want to be a president.’” 

 

I said, “Remember even though you may go through this situation as a child, know when you get older and you make the right decisions, you can become anything you want to be—-even if you want to be a president, even if you want to be a doctor.” I encouraged her to stay focused on school and not get distracted. 

“Remember even though you may go through this situation as a child, know when you get older and you make the right decisions, you can become anything you want to be—even if you want to be a president, even if you want to be a doctor.”

I’m not just running this camp. I’m still in school and working at Chick-Fil-A to save money for college. I want to become a doctor. I got a scholarship offer at Howard [University], and I have a mentor. Because out-of-state tuition is higher than staying in state, he’s been helping me out with how to get there. My goal is to save $5,000 on top of the scholarship. I want to major in biomedicine. 

 

I don’t post about the kids on social media for “cool points,” because it’s something that should be done regardless. It gives me a better look on the world, because the world nowadays is so bad. You turn on the news, it’s so negative. Being around a kid, they’re so innocent, they just want to have fun. It’s refreshing. It’s an overwhelming feeling, honestly.

 

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