Desoto County News

Camp S.H.A.P.E. brings city kids to the farm

Photo: Youngsters pet a rabbit as part of their visit to the Center Hill High School barnyard and Learning Center. (Bob Bakken/

The Olive Branch Police Department holds a summer program for high school aged students in the community called Camp S.H.A.P.E., which stands for Successful, Honorable, Ambitious, Positive, Exceptional. The month-long program helps connect the police department and youth in the city. The youngsters apply and are accepted into the free program, with the only stipulations being the youth are entering grades nine through 11 in the fall and are attending Olive Branch, Center Hill or Lewisburg high schools. It’s a program the police department started last year.  

“We’re bridging the gap between our youth and our police department,” OBPD Officer Jessica Norman said. “We do different things. We play golf, we go swimming at the YMCA and we’re going to go to Rust College for a fine dining experience. We go to Silvercreek and assist the senior citizens and help them shop and stuff.”

Silvercreek is a senior living facility located in Olive Branch. Norman said participants will earn 50 hours of community service when they’re done at the end of the program.  

Last week, the youngsters spent time visiting the barnyard farm of Center Hill High School instructor Angel Pilcher, who teaches Nutrition & Wellness, Resource Management at the school. Pilcher has developed the barnyard and adjacent Learning Center at the rear of the school to teach several academic areas, all centered on what she describes as STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. 

But the visit from the Camp S.H.A.P.E. kids is meant to let the city kids be introduced to a slice of rural life.  

“Many of them haven’t been around farm animals,” Pilcher said. “It’s kind of an immersive experience. They get to smell things and taste things that are out here on the farm and that would be fun.”

“None of the kids even knew this farm was out here,” added Norman. “Some of my students come here to Center Hill High so they can come out and help her, and help harvest her plants.”  

For the time the kids were able to pet and feed animals, Norman said they enjoyed the experience.  

“The kids love it and you can see it in their faces,” Norman said. “They’re actually getting up and close with the animals. I didn’t really expect that, and I love to see that they’re not afraid.”  

“I think it’s always great to expand your horizons and understand where your food comes from,” Pilcher said. “They can make more educated decisions about what they eat when they know how it’s grown and how it’s raised.”