Teens Build for Tomorrow at Garcia Center Summer Program

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Now in its 18th year, Very Important Kids (VIK) Camp continues to enrich the Coastal Bend community. Co-hosted by the College of Education and Human Development (COEHD) and the Art Museum of South Texas, the 4-week camp held at the Antonio E. Garcia Arts & Education Center provides education in arts, drama, reading, and STEM for local children. Camp mentors, who are local educators and Islander students, receive a helping hand from teen volunteers who are part of a summer program called Teens Building for Tomorrow.

Teens Building for Tomorrow started as a pilot program three years ago at the Garcia Center and continues to grow. According to Jermeka Morrison, Teens Building for Tomorrow coordinator and Garcia Center Administrative Associate, it began as a way to provide teens ages 13 to 17-years-old with a place to go to when they’re on summer break.

“There’s not a lot of camps for kids who are older than 12, or if there is, they are for all-boys or all-girls. This program is for everyone,” said Morrison. “Our focus is on educating teens so they can build for tomorrow. They learn great skills like teamwork and communication that they can take with them beyond high school.”

The program also provides opportunities to gain social skills, learn about mental health and financial literacy, and obtain up to 100 community service hours by volunteering with VIK. New this year, program participants are also painting murals with local artist Mayra Zamora, Islander alumna `10, `14. The mural “Que Viva Garcia!” pays tribute to the late artist, Antonio E. Garcia by capturing a portrait of him as if he were painting the mural. It honors his Mexican American heritage in an abstracted and modern view. The other mural, “Latinos Unidos,” pays tribute to the U.S. Latinx community. The background comprising of six colors represents the flags of several Latin American countries, inspired by Mexican serapes and American modern art.

While the program works in conjunction with VIK, the teens have an added benefit. They are exposed to several professional careers, from jet pilots to firefighters, to accountants, architects, and environmental scientists. Each day, they hear from a new guest speaker and can ask questions about the speaker’s occupation or journey. 

“I feel inspired by every guest speaker that visits because we get to learn what they’re doing and how they got there,” said Krystal Aumada, a 16-year-old at West Oso High School. “It makes us feel relieved to hear about how they had to go through a lot of obstacles to succeed.”

Participants are not only excited about learning about potential occupations, but also to earn volunteer hours to help build their resumes.

“Being here is going to help me achieve my goals,” said 16-year-old Steven Puentes. “I want to go to college, graduate with at least a bachelor’s degree, and become an automotive engineer. This gives me a lot of experience and hopefully it will make people who hire others more interested in me.”

Teens Building for Tomorrow runs through June 28.

Additional Information

Additional summer camps held at the Garcia Center include:

The VANTAGE Program, a vocational empowerment camp for teenage girls, lets participants explore career interests and options, develop leadership skills, set personal goals, and receive mentoring from women in leadership roles within the community. The camp costs $25 and has scholarships available.

Barrio Writers, a free program, aims to empower students ages 13 to 21 through creative writing, higher education, and cultural arts. Learn and practice different forms of writing, explore pathways to college, and take field trips.

For more information, visit the Garcia Center.