Kids To The Country is an outdoor, experiential, education program for at-risk urban children and is Plenty’s local project. In Nashville Tennessee, nearly a third of all children live in poverty. Many of these kids live in single parent or caregiver households, or have parents who are incarcerated or are in drug treatment. At times their lives can feel bleak and hopeless. Our goal has been to open the minds of such children to the possibility of a future very different from their present.
Since 1986, Kids To The Country (KTC) has offered at-risk youth aged 6-11 a chance to get out of the city and experience nature through healthy, hands-on activities. These youngsters are referred to KTC from homeless shelters, refugee centers and other community groups working in low-income neighborhoods in Nashville. KTC’s summer sessions take place at the 1750 acre Farm Community in Summertown, an area filled with miles of natural beauty. KTC staff and volunteers include trained youth counselors, teachers, artists, musicians, water-safety and horse-riding instructors, and health care professionals. Activities include nature study, developing conflict resolution skills, swimming, dance, horseback and bike riding, story telling, gardening, arts and crafts, a talent and art show, and lots of one on one attention. Program staff and counselors actively teach kids (and model themselves) how to cooperate with others, take responsibility for their actions, deal constructively with anger and conflict, and build lasting friendships in a multi-cultural setting.
The goal of our new KTC Leadership and Counselor Development Program is to screen KTC “graduates” and teens to participate in the KTC program as youth leaders/counselors. Last year we expected our four-day intensive training to be both a powerful experience for thirteen to fifteen year-olds and provide a pool of trained urban counselor apprentices. These expectations have been met and exceeded. We have been delighted by the impact that being a KTC counselor has had on the teenagers that serve on our youth staff and our young counselors-in-training from the city.
Special thanks to the Bay and Paul Foundations.
A KTC Volunteer’s Story by Jamie Neal Jackson
It was the third day of Kids to the Country, and counselors and kids alike were all having a great time down by the swimming hole eating watermelon and splashing around. I looked behind me and saw one little boy (we called him D) off by himself, quietly crying. I approached D and asked him what was wrong? I had thought we were all having a really good time together. Well, this nine-year-old little boy began, “Jamie, I just love Kids To The Country so much, and I don’t ever want to leave here. I’m just so thankful to be able to be here, but I just, I just feel bad because I feel like every kid everywhere should get to come to Kids To The Country. I just feel so blessed!” I was astounded at the amount of emotion filling this little boy up while all of his friends were running around having such a wonderful time.
D and I spent a long time talking about how much he appreciated the counselors at KTC and how much we counselors enjoyed being able to spend so much time with kids like him. After a while I steered D over to the snacks and crafts table and we began to chat and joke around more lightheartedly. But this little boy’s strength and emotion stuck with me for a long time. I knew then that Kids To The Country was accomplishing something truly life changing and powerful, both for the kids and for us, the counselors. I am so grateful!