Anyone who participated in or volunteered for the Jim Cleamons Books and Basketball camp will tell you the camp is not just about basketball. One can tell by the name that academics come first for this week-long day camp.
“This is just a teaching aide, this is an opportunity to let you know that you are limitless, you have your own resources,” Cleamons said.
Cleamons wanted to empower the children of Los Angeles through diverse avenues when he aided in creating the Books and Basketball camp back in 2004. The Brotherhood Crusade kept his mission alive year-after-year.
The Books and Basketball Camp has been described as transformative, students who just come for basketball would return for the camp’s holistic curriculum. George Weaver, the life skills teacher for the camp recalled how the camp affected a few young people who had a history with the juvenile justice system. They were only interested in basketball.
“During that week, their mindset changed,” Weaver said. “At the end of the week, they showed up with flowers for the young ladies who were working the camp.”
Some of the young kids who grew up through the camp even returned as mentors. Gardena High School student Israel Barnett became an intern for the first time this year after growing up as an attendee. He wants the children he mentors to know that they can be more than an athlete.
“I learned to cope with my fears and beat the fears.” Barnett said about his years as a participant.
Dr. Diandra Bremond has been a coach for the camp for a decade, helping the youth with basketball skills and instilling in them the importance of education.
“I want to be able to let children know that although they’re from South L.A. or Cleveland, Ohio that they can reach the highest point that they want to reach,” Bremond said.
Teachers from the Science Center engaged the students with Socratic discussions and hands-on activities. One day the students learned about engineering and aerospace. Another day, they created rockets using camera film canisters, Alka Seltzer and water.
“There’s such a huge emphasis on school and on learning,” said Taelor Bakewell, who has been a coach for the camp for eight years. “They learn chess and they’re doing yoga this year. Basketball is just another component of all the multi-faceted things they get to do during the day.
The children involved also learned about life skills. An assignment for them was to write a thank you letter to their parents. They discussed topics including race relations and law enforcement. They also talked about the decisions parents make that seem unfavorable to youth.
The camp strives to give children an intimate learning experience, 100 children participated this year. Cleamons wants the products of his camp to know they have no limits to their potential, however the lessons Cleamons wants to provide can exceed the time span of a week.
“They continue to grow and we have limited time, space, and opportunity to touch their hearts, touch their minds.” Cleamons said. “We have to do the best we can in that week and hopefully, they’ll come back next year a better, wiser person and we get a chance to fill their hearts once again.”