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SHIPROCK — Ethan Curley carefully applied white paint to his artwork of the comic book character, Deadpool, during an art class at iMPACT Shiprock on July 23.

"He's my favorite superhero," Charley said.

iMPACT Shiprock is a summer camp that started five years ago to promote fitness and healthy living among youth. The weeklong camp attracts hundreds of participants, ages 7-18, to learn about sports and visual arts from volunteers.

Four groups of students engaged in football drills on the front lawn at Shiprock High School.

Joshua Atcitty played football for Shiprock High from 2013 to 2017 and returned to his alma mater to share his skills with participants.

As he taught a group of boys about connecting with the football, he also encouraged them to move their feet as quickly as possible.

"When I throw the ball to the back, it simulates a fumble. Whoever wants it more, will get it," Atcitty said.

Besides the satisfaction of watching the participants improve their football techniques over the week, he said they have been developing communication skills as well.

"I see some of these kids talking to each other, they're being more social around each other," Atcitty said.

Cynthia Lee has coordinated the camp since it began as an idea by area ministers and church members.

Volunteers have a role in every aspect of the camp, whether providing year around assistance or teaching classes based on their athletic experiences, she said.

Besides providing a place for youth to learn, the program teaches participants about the importance of physical activity to maintain health.

"Our committee wants to keep our community healthy, and it starts at a young age, so we're promoting health and wellness," Lee said.

The camp in previous years operated on financial donations from congregations. That changed this year with a sponsorship from the Navajo Nation Special Diabetes Program.

Lee said the sponsorship added more programs for participants, including bowling and roller-skating sessions in Farmington. Also, San Juan College offered access this year to disc golf, a ropes course, nature walks and the indoor climbing wall at its main campus.

Char Begay, program supervisor for the Shiprock service area under the tribe's special diabetes program, said the program's involvement falls under its goal to work with youth groups and activities in the service areas.

"We're encouraging kids to be physically active. Every family should be like that, making that part of their daily activities," Begay said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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