Youth Get Connected to Free Summer Camps
By Dianne Anderson
Your kids on summer vacation – can waste brain matter on video games and out in the streets, or they could be at camp, develop their futures, and learn to positively interact with others, all while having the best times of their young lives.
Now running for over 20 years, the IAM GIFTED football camp led by the former NFL Pro Greg Bell is coming soon to San Bernardino for kids ages 6 and up through high school to learn pro tips about the game of life.
Through the nonprofit Athletes For Life, kids and teens at summer camp over the past two decades have learned to take the skills from the field and apply them to everyday life.
“Goal setting, perseverance, we think the most important tool we give them is understanding how to get up after they’re knocked down hard,” said Bell, former Rams running back, and NFL touchdown maven.
From his perspective, it’s not a matter of if, but when. He said football is more than running a ball. It builds mental toughness and strategies for the win.
“And you have to carry that discipline and know what you have to do to get back up. It takes a lot of work,” he said.
For third through eighth graders, his free camp will host lectures and encouragement, and NFL players talk football, their education, and then they hit the field for fun. For grades 9-12, the high school program is focused on math and English competencies, picking the right college, and making good choices. That event is two nights and three days, to be held on campus at Cal State University, San Bernardino.
The girls also have a separate flag football, which he said filled up fast with about 70 players.
June 15 is the application deadline. While the camps are very popular, he encourages all to apply at http://www.athletesforlife.org. There are always some cancellations.
Bell grew up in all Black community on the south side of Columbus, Ohio under a single mom that was both his mother and father. He said San Bernardino feels like home.
“There’s so many things I can relate to the kids of San Bernardino. There’s a lot of Brown and Black kids coming from single-family homes. They need to see positive examples, that’s what we try to do over the 23 years,” he said.
Mostly, his kids learn to finish what they start. He said 90% graduate, and some return to help with the program. He feels another positive of football is that there are no colors, only hard work.
“We live in a place that sometimes shows color more often than not, you have to live with everyone in the world, be kind and courteous to one another, same with the game of football,” he said.
Bell works with San Bernardino City Unified School District, providing free after school education and mentoring services year-round. He also works with the state of California VIP program, giving gainful employment to high-risk kids, and helping kids coming out of the system. That program helps clean up their records, help with mental health, mentor and provides job opportunities. They learn how to write a resume, how to dress properly, and speak with authority.
Out of high school in the 80s, he said education was always key. He went on to the University of Notre Dame where he started law school, and graduated with honors to become the number one draft pick.
He commended Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison, San Bernardino High alumnus, whom he’s known and mentored since fifth grade. Mattison returned to work with the program, and also helps with camps in Boise Idaho and Minneapolis.
Other program offerings include a mental health professional, and job readiness tools. He always impresses upon students that want to get into football as a profession means countless hours of preparation and nonstop training.
“It’s long and tedious, that’s how life is as well. If you just get up today and think you’re going to walk out tomorrow and be successful, you’re fooling yourself,” he said.
Besides Bell’s football camp, which is free to students and paid for by SBCUSD, the district also pays contracts for other local summer camps that are usually out of reach for many local parents.
They work with YMCA every summer to pay camp fees for all students enrolled in SBCUSD schools who want to participate in the program. They are expanding free access to Akoma Unity Center, as well as the Boys and Girls Club that have facilities to offer camps.
Corina Borsuk, district spokesperson, said their several expanded learning summer programs are sure to be a hit with the kids.
“During the summer program, SBCUSD has curated an exceptional lineup of engaging activities, each dedicated to a specific blockbuster movie,” she said.
Students will build their own Lego masterpieces and participate in exciting Lego-themed challenges.
“Jurassic Park Week will take students on a thrilling adventure back in time. They will become paleontologists, uncovering fossils and learning about prehistoric creatures through interactive exhibits and exciting experiments. And that’s just the start,” she said.
Ann Pearson, Director of SBCUSD’s Expanded Learning–Sunrise/CAPS, said the Expanded Learning–Sunrise/CAPS is gearing up for its summer school program that will run from June 5–30.
“Our theme for the summer is Blockbuster Summer, and we will have several fun activities centered around Blockbuster movies. Look for a Lego Movie week, a Star Wars week, a Jurassic Park week, and an Avatar week. We are looking forward to a great summer of fun and an educational 2023–2024 school year,” she said
For more information on CAPS programs, see