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How the YES Program Summer Adventure Camp Got to Wild Adventures (But Almost Didn't)

Only days before the YES Program's big Summer Camp field trip to Wild Adventures, Oak Hill Middle School YES Administrator Alicia Jenkins got an email that she calls "devastating".

"There was an issue with Wild Adventures accepting a purchase order for payment," Jenkins said, "so we were either going to have to cancel the trip or we were going to have to pay for all the tickets up front, which was about $5,000. And we found out about this literally four days before the trip, but it was over the weekend so actually only one business day before the trip."

With nowhere else to turn and only one day to do it, the race to fund 140 students' trip to Wild Adventures was on. This trip was the focus of the whole YES Summer Camp. Their theme was "The Wild Adventures of YES". The YES Program, which is a 21st CCLC Grant written through Georgia College in partnership with the Baldwin County School District, provides enrichment opportunities to our students. The YES Program plans its curriculum and activities for the summer to go with the theme of the upcoming school year. The YES Program Summer Camp serves as the start of the students' academic year. This trip was the springboard for their entire 22'-23' program.

Jenkins and her team were actually in Downtown Milledgeville with the students when she got the email saying that Wild Adventures would not take the purchase order (PO). There was no way that she could let the kids know. "It was devastating," she said, "I contacted them and said 'hey, can I speak to your supervisor? Can somebody else work with us on this? This is our major trip for the summer. Everything has been approved. And they basically said that POs are not accepted and there was nothing she could do."

Jenkins and the teachers had an emergency meeting once they'd returned from their Downtown field trip and discussed possible options. In an attempt to get support from the local community, Jenkins crafted a social media post that invigorated a call for action!

The nightmare scenario for Alicia Jenkins was that it would come down to the following Tuesday and if they hadn't raised enough money, she would have to tell the kids that they would not be going on the trip to Wild Adventures.

"I really feel like the kids in this community to know that we've got their back and that we support them. And they need these opportunities."

For Jenkins and the others on staff with the YES Program at Oak Hill Middle School, this is more than a job. "I really feel like the kids in this community need to know that we've got their back and that we support them. And they need these opportunities. They need these experiences outside of the school setting. They need to be in social situations. They need to see what types of opportunities are available to them; that there are literally endless possibilities."

The YES Summer Program students had spent the past few weeks learning about various zoologies and even about the behind-the-scenes vocations that go into running the park. Beyond that, most of them had never been to Wild Adventures or an amusement park of any kind before. When Jenkins says that the prospect of letting these kids down was "devastating", she means precisely that.

Within about twelve hours of the initial social media posting, the local community pledged a commitment right at the $5,000 dollar amount needed to send the students to Wild Adventures. Local area businesses and individuals banded together to contribute to funding the trip. "We thanked everybody for their amazing generosity and all the support that came out was absolutely outstanding," Jenkins said. To top it off, not long after having received the pledges, Jenkins learned that the initial refusal of the purchase order had been a mistake and that the pledged commitments were no longer needed.

"The kids had a phenomenal time," Jenkins said, "21st Century paid for their tickets down and their lunch. Sinclair Oconee Homes purchased souvenir cups that could be refilled throughout the day. One of the local churches paid for cabanas in case the kids got hot and needed a break. 21st Century provided busing through Georgia College. Everybody just really came together for this one and the students had an absolutely amazing time." The students never even knew that the real wild adventure, for Alicia Jenkins and the crew of the YES Program, was getting them there in the first place.

See the full photo gallery of the adventure below:

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