After-school program grows in numbers, helpers

Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Eureka Springs Elementary School students with their "Seed to Feed" garden they made during the 21st Century after-school program, a five-year federally funded program. The garden was erected with the help of local citizen volunteers who provide mentoring and other help. "The community has really stepped up, and we want to encourage anyone else to come in as well," said program director Gary Andrews. Kathryn Lucariello / CCN

EUREKA SPRINGS -- The federally funded 21st Century after-school program, halfway through its second year, has almost doubled in the number of students registered. But it's also had a great response from the community in its plea for help, said Gary Andrews, who heads up the five-year program.

Reporting to the Eureka Springs School Board Thursday, he said that when the program began in 2009, it had 62 students registered and averaged 40 to 45 per day. This year it has 117 students and averages 55 to 60 per day. Certified teachers and volunteers work with students from 3-6 p.m. on a variety of activities, including help with homework.

"Members of the community are stepping up, some paid and some volunteer," he said.

The program has engaged in a number of projects, including hosting a family night that had 86 people attend and putting in, with help from local residents, a "Seed to Feed" garden behind the elementary school.

"We started WKIDS youth broadcasting. They'll be interviewing the mayor, firefighters, police, etc. We are also working on our summer program and have 18 to 20 people signed up for that."

"Parents love it, and the kids like it," said school board president Rusty Windle. "I'm hearing good reports."

Andrews said the community has also stepped up to respond to his plea to mentor students during the school day and give teachers a little help, especially with reading.

"As of last week, I have 32 people signed up," Andrews said. "I want to make a special mention of Cornerstone Bank. They dropped eight to 10 people on us, and every day we have someone from the bank come in.

"We want to encourage anyone else to come in as well."

He said the mentors seem to get as much out of it as the kids do.

Board member Debbie Smith said she has been mentoring and really enjoys it.

"It's great. All I do is read to them. I pick books I read to my own kids. They love it."

For more information, contact Gary Andrews at (479) 253-8704 or 981-1636.

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