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First ‘Techie Camp’ at Willow Hill starts for 25 students Monday

An opening ceremony for the first-ever “Techie Camp” at the Willow Hill Heritage and Renaissance Center will be held Monday at 9 a.m. at the Outdoor Learning Center on the campus at 4235 Willow Hill Road near Portal.

Offered free for up to 25 middle school students who reside or attend school in Bulloch County, the day camp is already full to capacity, with 25 day-campers registered, said WHHRC Development Director Gayle Jackson, Ph.D.

As previously reported, the Willow Hill Center expanded internet access to the open-sided pavilion known as the Outdoor Learning Center last year with a grant from the federal Institute for Museum and Library Sciences. The Learning Center is also available to people in the Portal area who have limited or no access to broadband internet service.

Now, the nonprofit organization Tech Corps and the Nordson Corporation Foundation are sponsoring the Techie Camp “to increase middle school students’ access to high quality science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education summer programs,” Jackson stated in a news release.

The day camp will operate five days a week for two weeks, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. June 6-10 and June 13-17. On the final day, Friday, June 17, there will be a celebration with student presentations in the afternoon.

Breakfast and lunch are being provided daily, and students can bring their own snacks, Jackson said in a follow-up email.

This is not a Bulloch County Schools program, but the school system provided a link for the Techie Camp through the “Community Camps” page on the BCS website, which also lists other summer day camps available in the county. Students applied through that link either before or after the school year ended, and Tech Corps set the limit on the number of participants, Jackson reported.

The Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks & Recreation Department is also assisting, she said. Parks & Rec personnel are to provide “team-building activities” for the day campers for 30 minutes each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon.

The Willow Hill Heritage and Renaissance Center “is focusing on providing educational and recreational activities for youth in the Portal area,” Jackson wrote.  “Community members have been meeting and discussing development of the grounds of WHHRC for public use.”

Otherwise, youth in the Portal and Willow Hill area have limited access to playground activities when school is not in session, she said. 

“WHHRC is able to do this work through the support of grants and funds contributed by the community and Friends of Willow Hill,” she wrote, and noted the following contributions.

• The owners of Eco Premier Coating of Metter – Wendell Gibson, Jerry Gibson Jr., Jerry Gibson III and Ashton Gibson – donated their costs for renovating and restoring the basketball court, a project valued at $6,000.

• Nordson Corporation Foundation provided $25,000 for the construction of the Outdoor Learning Center.

• Two grants, for $1,000 and $1,700, from Walmart were used toward the cost of lighting and fans for the Learning Center.

• People in the Portal community along with Friends of Willow Hill have helped to raise funds to support the restoration, on the Willow Hill campus, of the Bennett Grove School, the last African-American one-room schoolhouse in Bulloch County.

• Nordson Corporation last month approved a $40,000 Community Impact Award toward the repair of the roof of the Willow Hill Center’s main building. 

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