After school programs engage students in learning

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The Youth Center’s staff and children are working hard on projects and other future activities from now until December.

Director Cindy Rivera, Grandma Dolores Medina, Grandpa Leo Mendoza, Tita Sanchez, Roxanne Silva and Regina Valencia have 77 children enrolled in the Youth Center’s after-school program this year, and still have openings, Rivera said.

Participating children go directly after school to the Youth Center. A staff member walks to Parkview to pick up the kids; at Zimmerly there is a bus that takes the children; from Sarracino Middle School, the bus drops the kids off and Midway parents take their children to the Youth Center, Rivera said.

“We make sure they do homework,” Rivera said. “It’s an opportunity for them to have one-on-one attention to do better in school. We’re family and we take care of each other.”

Rivera makes sure to check agendas to see if children have homework because homework comes first, she said. The Youth Center provides free care for children ages 4 to 13 and has educational games using math, science and English to help the children learn more. They have a twister problem solving game, a survey game and history and science games, as well. Other educational activities to help the children learn are multiplication cards, and once their homework is done they have a variety of activities available.

“The kids love Yahtzee to count and add up,” Rivera said. “It’s a learning process they don’t realize.”

New Mexico Tech students Miguel Trujillo, Bryan Stanley, Sam Chesebrough, Daniel Montano, Laura Montoya and June Stanley volunteer at the Youth Center to tutor and help the children with their homework. The tutors help the children with school subjects such as math and reading and provide one-on-one with each child who needs help, Rivera said. The Tech students guide them, and the Youth Center provides books at reading levels from first through eighth grade.

After homework time, the Youth Center has fun-filled activities for the children, such as arts and crafts, and in the back, the children created a garden and planted seeds, including squash, corn, chile and melons.

Children are served a snack right after school and Friday is a movie day. On half days, when the children get out of school at 12:15 p.m., Rivera takes them on field trips within walking distance. Since it’s still warm outside, the staff sometimes takes children to Sedillo Park for kickball and flag football.

At the county fair, the Youth Center won first place and honorable mention for produce, and first place in the parade and in arts and crafts. They are already preparing for the Christmas parade and Halloween carnival, Rivera said.

The Halloween carnival will take place Saturday Oct. 27 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. and is free. Food such as nachos, pickles and soft drinks will be available for a price. At the carnival there will be booths with games, and one of the booths will have iron-on beads with Halloween designs and other beads for making bracelets and necklaces, Rivera said. They also have glow in the dark feet, and at every booth there will be a bag of candy to hand out to the children. They ordered 200 pumpkins for everyone to paint and put stickers on. The haunted house costs $1, Rivera said.

“We have music for the kids and we let them dance and move around,” Rivera said. “They want to dance, they get up and do it,”

On Nov. 17, the Youth Center will have a Christmas block party where the staff and children will decorate the street with lights. The Youth Center’s junior high students are painting the Christmas decorations for the street, Rivera said. They are also decorating the senior center all the way down to the different areas and main houses. The block party will end with a Thanksgiving dinner with the senior center and the city will provide the turkey and the ham, Rivera said. Each family will also bring a dish of their choice.

The Starry Starry Night parade will take place on Dec. 1, and will start at Sedillo Park and end at the plaza. For the parade, they will place lights on the trees in the park on Nov. 15, and decorate around the plaza, Rivera said.

“The mayor gives so much to the Youth Center,” Rivera said. “He knows these kids are our future and he sees that. Parents do too.”

The parents are supportive of the Youth Center’s activities and their discipline — each child has three strikes before they are let go from the program.

Future plans for the Youth Center include building an outdoor court for junior high students.

“If you listen to kids, the greatest ideas come from them,” Rivera said.

Josh Kerns, recreational consultant, said Parks and Recreation has an after-school fitness program at Finley gym that teaches children hand-and-eye coordination, agility foot work, non-weight exercises, lunges, step-ups, ladder drills and ping pong. The children also throw a football around to help with cardio, he said. For the future, he wants an adult fitness program, and is in the process of finding certified instructors. He hopes to accomplish this by November. The adult classes will include activities such as pilates, zumba, yoga and step aerobics.

“The activities give more energy and healthier life-style for people to work out,” Kerns said. “They (children) have more energy to pay attention in school to feel better about themselves and it helps with self-esteem.”

Winter sports include flag football which will start Oct. 1 and last five weeks. Youth basketball starts in November and he will accept applications throughout the month. The last day to register will be Dec. 1 and the cost is $10, he said. For the fall activities, parents and coaches signed a code of ethics, which states parents and coaches need to show good sportsmanship and providing positive support for all players.

“Activities are enjoyable for everyone to stay active where they don’t feel discouraged,” Kerns said.

Teams coordinate their own practice time. Adults show up and play a season schedule. Youth basketball will start in the month of November, and Dec. 1 is the last day to register. For women’s volleyball the last day to register is Friday, Sept. 28, and for adult basketball the the last day to register is Oct. 7. Adult registration for women’s indoor volleyball will cost $160 to $200 and men’s basketball is $250 to $300. The entry fee for all sports needs to be paid in full to get on the schedule, he said.