Just when you think you have had it tough, try coming in each day to a schedule of playing soccer, swimming, or visiting the Bronx Zoo. Well, that was the tough, difficult challenge for about 25 kids who participated in this year's Watervliet Arsenal summer camp program in July and August. Today, the camp completes another successful summer providing Arsenal families a safe alternative while school is out.

According to Kyle Buono, Arsenal child youth services manager, the Arsenal's summer program, now in its second year of operation, is not like most other summer camps that utilize high school students as part of their staffs. Every one of the six primary counselors are either certified teachers or are student teachers at local colleges.

The thought of spending a summer with teachers may have most kids clinging to the car door as parents attempt to drag them off to summer camp. But this staff is different and so, no cars were harmed during this summer camp.

And if smiles and laughter from the kids are any measurement of success, then the Arsenal has hit the jackpot in recruiting the very best for its kids.

The kids, whose ages ranged from 5 to 13 years old, had an opportunity over the course of the last two months to participate in either a four or five day a week program.

Although the fee for summer camp is based upon the sponsor's income level, the highest rate for a five-day session was only $108. This fee was based upon a sponsor's annual income higher than $70,001 a year.

The lowest fee for a five-day session was $36. Not bad considering the summer camp opened daily at 6:30 a.m. and closed at 4:45 p.m. (3:45 p.m. on Fridays).

So, what did parents get for their money'

At an hourly rate ranging from $1.36 to $2.16 a hour, parents were able to leave this kids in a well supervised program that had a least one field trip a week to such places as Lake George, ValleyCats Baseball (for safety reasons, they did not attend the game when the Arsenal commander threw out the first pitch), and the Grafton State Park.

But the low cost may have been outweighed by the benefit of the camp location. The summer camp was operated on the Arsenal and was within a 10-minute walk of the parents' or sponsor's work areas. Therefore, many parents were able to check on their kids during the day.

Melissa Ryder, a teacher from the Troy School District and the summer camp Leader, said the camp provides a wealth of activities in addition to the field trips.

"Everything from arts and crafts to sports programs are offered to ensure the kids are engaged," Ryder said. "The one thing we don't offer in the program is boredom. Although the kids have a freedom of choice whether or not they want to participate in the day's events, we find that they always join in."

Ryder explained that where the camp staff does not have the expertise for a certain activity, the Arsenal contracts with local businesses to provide that support. For example, the Arsenal brought in AFRIM Sports from Albany to teach and coach the kids in soccer.

Despite all the great activities and opportunities the camp provides, it has not lived up to its potential, according to Dawn Whelan.

Whelan, who is the Arsenal business operations officer, said that despite two months of safe operation she is a little disappointed in the number of kids who participated in the program this summer.

"On average, the Arsenal summer camp has about 20 to 25 kids who participate daily," Whelan said. "However, we have the capacity to provide a camp experience for 45 kids."

Nevertheless, Whelan said she and the staff have learned quite a bit these last two years about how to run a summer camp and she is pleased to have once again provided a safe, inexpensive, fun alternative for the Arsenal kids.

Although this successful summer camp is over, Whelan said she is already planning to make next year's camp even better.

In July, the Child Youth Services for the Department of Army inspected the camp's operation and the camp received an outstanding rating.