Education1.jpgKENT KRIEGHSAUSER/The Register-Mail

Martha Camargo is a Knox College student who has conducted a study and done research on activity options for Galesburg youth.

Perception vs. Reality

Knox student works to find out just what there is for kids to do

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Growing up in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, Martha Camargo was never the type of kid who complained there was nothing to do.

Outside of school, Camargo was involved in sports, cultural activities and academic-enrichment programs, both in her neighborhood and elsewhere in the city.

But even in an urban environment, opportunities to participate in youth programs and activities didn't just fall in her lap.

Camargo, now a senior at Knox College, searched for the opportunities on her own, bringing home flyers from schools and community centers and telling her parents what she wanted to do.

"I just tried to be as involved as I could," she said.

For Camargo, participating in a variety of youth programs exposed her to a range of activities and ideas that shaped her college and career decisions.

A Spanish literature major with minors in business and sociology who played on the women's basketball team at Knox, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Oregon in the fall. She also is a McNair Fellow at Knox through a federal mentoring program meant to increase the number of doctoral degrees obtained by underrepresented segments of society.

For the past few months, she has been helping a local non-profit agency research available youth programs in Knox County. As an intern with the Knox County Area Project, Camargo wanted to help make local youth aware of the programs in their communities.

"You hear there's nothing to do here. I think that's where KCAP comes in because we want to see what the perception is and what the reality is," Camargo said.

Working with KCAP director Rhonda Brady, Camargo developed a 17-question survey and distributed it to local schools, churches, libraries and organizations who might offer youth programming. She then filled a thick binder with spreadsheets and graphs analyzing the 45 responses she received.

While the data is preliminary and Camargo's internship ended earlier this month, her research is the first step toward KCAP's goal of creating a Web site with a comprehensive, searchable database of youth programs and activities.

Being involved in various youth programs gave Camargo a deeper connection to her community.

"Reaching out makes a connection. When you are involved you feel like your feedback is important," she said, noting she enjoys seeing murals in her neighborhood and knowing that youth have contributed to them. "You feel a sense of pride in what you grew up in and what you contributed."

She said it was those experiences that made her want to work for KCAP.

"I knew the importance of kids being aware of what basic programs there are. I really wanted to be involved with the Galesburg community as well," she said.


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