For four long, grueling days, more than 200 at-risk youth from across the nation converged on the campus of South Carolina State University – challenging themselves physically, mentally and emotionally as they competed against one another during the 2016 AMIkids Summer Challenge Event. From as far away as Cuba, New Mexico to as close by as Beaufort, South Carolina, these kids were ready and eager to take on the challenges head on, having earned highly coveted spots on their teams for their achievements in and outside of the classroom.
From Day One’s Creative Writing Competition and Spelling Bee Challenge to Day Four’s Volleyball Tournament and Tug-O-War Contest, 16 teams comprising students from AMIkids nonresidential and residential programs in Florida, New Mexico and South Carolina battled it out to gain bragging rights, medals and trophies from each of the day’s competitions. Kids competed in such other activities as Track & Field, Swimming, Science Fair, Speech, Academic Quiz Bowl, Marlinspike and First Aid.
Both boys and girls, middle schoolers and high schoolers came together as one united AMIkids family in the city of Orangeburg, South Carolina, and it wasn’t unusual to see students build each other up, encourage one another and support each other day by day despite their bodies beginning to run out of steam and their minds starting to fatigue. These students, many of whom did not (or do not) have a support system at home, became one another’s solid foundation of comfort, friendship and hope. They cheered each other on with words of affirmation and motivation with many of these kids – for the first time in their lives – believing in themselves, knowing that regardless of the outcome of a race or competition, they were – and continue to be – winners.
Tony Award-Winning Director Kenny Leon was the guest speaker during the Closing Awards Banquet & Ceremony. A native of Tallahassee, Florida, Leon motivated the students with his story of success and triumph, having overcome a childhood where he lived in poverty and hardship. The kids listened intently to Leon speak as he affectionately referred to himself as “Uncle Kenny” and someone who would always be there to support and encourage them along their life’s journeys. Additionally, thanks to The Hartwell Foundation, one scholarship was awarded to a well-deserving student, Maria C. of Southwest Florida, for her display of leadership and sportsmanship throughout the entire week.
During the intense four-day event, the students formed friendships and forged bonds that only they themselves will ever understand. They left with a sense of pride in themselves and in their teams as they parted ways. And, they realized that the lessons they learned in a just short time and the memories they created with one another will last for years to come if not for an entire lifetime ahead.
For more information on AMIkids or how you can become involved with the organization, contact:
Jessica R. Aspiras
Director of Marketing