"I'd probably be at the house sleeping, watching TV or playing video games," he said.
One of his classmates, 11-year-old Kymbreah Smith, agreed. "I wish it would run longer," she said of the two week program, in which the students meet for three hours a day at Lilbourn Elementary School, focusing on literacy and nutrition.
And that's the impression the instructors want to give the participants during the first year of their enrichment program, reaching out to 7- to 12-year-
olds who attend New Madrid County R-1 Schools, from the communities of Lilbourn, North Lilbourn, Howardville and Marston.
"This is a really important age group," said Sherry Maxwell, youth program coordinator for Lincoln University. The participants were chosen from Lincoln University's Kids' Beat program in the area.
"We wanted kids who have a thirst for knowledge - they don't have to have the best grades, but we wanted them to be open to learn," she noted.
The day begins and ends in the Harrambee Room - Harrambee is Swahili for pulling together. Claudette Scott, project coordinator, leads the group session with the 55 participants, introducing them to their word of the day and which of the five food groups they are focusing on.
"It sets the tone of the day," she said. Wednesday's word was choices and the youngsters focuses on the fruit group. A song is sung and a story and poem are read, all relating to the concept of the day. At the end of the day, more songs are sung, while the group reviews what they have learned.
Since the program also focuses on nutrition, there is a food pyramid and activity pyramid in the Harrambee Room, with different activities correlating with different groups.
The base of the food pyramid - the most important group - matches with walking, doing chores and playing outside, activities that should be done daily. On the other hand, the top of the pyramid - sweets and other items that should be eaten sparingly - correlates with playing video games and watching television, which should only be done two or three times a week, Maxwell said.
In between their group sessions in the Harrambee Room, the group splits into three sections, where their teachers from around the country help them plan healthy menus for three meals a day, in addition to making word puzzles with the words of the day. There is also 15 to 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, which changes every day.
One instructor, Mamie Blair, taught in the New Madrid County School district for over 30 years before retiring in May. "A lot of them have learned to work with one another," she said of the program participants.
Claudia Daniels, who is from Georgia and teaches the 11- and 12-year-old section, agreed, adding the students have also learned quite a bit. "This program ties it all together - fitness, literacy and writing," she said.
The classes also read age-appropriate literature and write in journals in their groups. At this level, they need to start focusing on writing, because it is a skill they will need in the near future, Daniels said. She also spoke highly of the word puzzles. "It helps them to think and articulate what they are thinking," she said.
Kymbreah agreed. She has always enjoyed poetry and written a few times before Learning and Losing it with Lincoln, but it's much easier now, she said. "It makes me feel more comfortable," she admitted. "Now ideas just keep popping into my head."
The kids are doing well in all aspects of the program, from literacy and writing to fitness, Daniels noted. And they will each receive their own books to take home when the program ends this Friday.
Scott plans and directs the curriculum and also trains the teachers. She said teaching the kids about health is important, and at the end of the program, each child should have several balanced menus in their notebooks.
They are also learning how to make some healthy snacks and meals, which is important, since some make their own. Instead of making plain ramen noodles, the teachers are encouraging the kids to mix in a can of tuna fish or chicken to make it a healthier, balanced meal.
"It helps them raise their self-esteem, be confident and conscious of the food they eat," she said. The classes also review what they have learned. "The more they hear it, the more they get it," Scott said.
Program participants are also learning about three diseases - high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. These illnesses can be avoided by eating right, Scott said.
Kymbreah said she has learned a lot about the different food groups and what she can do to prevent the diseases the class discussed. "It's changing the way I'm gonna eat," she said.
And she and Keith had high praises for their instructors. "The teachers are great," Keith said. "It's good what they're doing for us kids."