The first day of a unique summer camp has begun in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Recreation Worcester is a free summer program for kids in the city.
“It’s fun because you get to meet new people and you get to make friendships,” said Rachel Gibson, 11, who is attending the camp with her sisters.
Overall, more than 1,000 kids across the city are expected to spend time at ten parks around the city.
The program, which started Wednesday, runs from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every weekday.
At the University Park site, kids play games on the grass and over at East Park they enjoy a water park.
But Recreation Worcester is about more than keeping kids cool and keeping them active, it’s also about keeping them out of trouble.
“A lot of the violence in the city is driven by our gangs,” said Eric Batista of the City Manager’s office.
Batista runs the city’s youth violence task force and says many of these kids would be targets for gang recruitment if they weren’t there.
“We’re always looking for strategies to improve and help reduce the violence in the city,” Batista said.
Kids also get two free meals just like in school.
“If they didn’t have food here, they would be hungry. That’s what we are hearing from our families,” said Raquel Castro-Corazini, Director of Youth Opportunities.
More than 60 percent of the kids in Worcester Public Schools are economically disadvantaged. That’s more than twice the state average.