After-school program: Community center sponsors trial run of program
Thanks to the Eureka Springs Community Center Foundation, area students have a place to go when the day’s last school bell rings.
The foundation has been sponsoring an after-school program since March 27 — where students play outside, work on art projects, complete homework and eat nutritional snacks.
Foundation board member Kathy Remenar said the original plan was to have the program at the community center, but that didn’t work out because mold was found in the gym.
“We had everything all set, and then we had that problem,” Remenar said. “With the cooperation of Eureka Springs schools, we moved it right into the school. That worked out great, because everybody knew where everything was and the facilities were there. We didn’t have to worry.”
Around 50 students have been meeting in the elementary school building from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. for months now, Remenar said. She said the pilot program is for students from kindergarten to sixth grade only.
“We’d love to be able to offer activity for those kids who are older than that, but at this point, that was as far as we could go,” Remenar said. “We hope very soon to get that gym open, and then you’ve got more space.”
Foundation board member Jean Elderwind said the foundation is employing 11 teachers to help run the program. Remenar said she chose Carrie Gay to be a co-coordinator for the program after seeing Gay successfully coach the volleyball team.
“I thought she was always involved with the little kids. Then, I found out she had been the lead teacher on the after-school program when we had one,” Remenar said. “We had a grant for a long time. It was supposed to wean its way down. Well, it weaned itself down and out, so there was no after-school care for children in Eureka Springs.”
“There was no place for the children to go,” Elderwind said.
Elderwind said the foundation wanted to meet the need for an after-school program as quickly as possible. The foundation is providing all supplies for the program, she said, such as markers and volleyballs. All the money for the program, Elderwind said, comes from the foundation’s Dine Around fundraiser, which has raised around $11,000 since the end of 2016.
“We felt it was an important service we can give to the community,” Elderwind said. “Our Dine Around funds are funding us through the end of the year.”
Remenar said the pilot program is free.
“To parents, that’s a huge deal. It’s also not particularly realistic in the long run, but you can come up with a graduated scale the way other communities do based on income,” Remenar said. “When the program goes to the community center, it will be that type of program.”
So far, Gay said the students have loved the program.
“They’re always asking us, ‘Are you going to be after school today? Who’s going to be after school today?’ ” Gay said. “They get to hang out with their friends. They get to have a snack.”
Kamisha Watson, co-coordinator of the program, said she grew up in after-school programs.
“I grew a lot as a person. I worked and I helped, and I have all these friends I’ve made,” Watson said.
It’s especially important, Watson said, to have a program like that in Eureka Springs.
“In a community where there’s not a lot of things for kids to do, it’s something for them to do,” Watson said.
Gay agreed, saying the program provides safety and security for students who might not have that at home.
“If children are scared and uncertain about what they’re doing after school, they can’t learn during school,” Gay said.
Gay thanked the foundation for sponsoring the program and said she’s excited to see where it goes next year.
“We’re very thankful for the community we live in and the community center that is providing this for our school kids,” Gay said. “We’re also grateful for all the donations from Dine Around. We couldn’t do this without the donations of the community.”
Elderwind said the program will be moving to the community center next year after the mold problem is taken care of.
“We’re not there yet, but we’re diligently working on the avenues we need to explore so we can make that building 100 percent fine,” Elderwind said. “We’d love to have the kids at the community center. Then, we can look at expanding the program.”
The Dine Around fundraiser continues throughout the year. The hosts include Rowdy Beaver on June 21, The Rockin’ Pig Saloon on July 19, Bavarian Inn on Aug. 16, Ermilio’s Italian Home Cooking on Sept. 20, Crystal Dining Room on Oct. 18, Grand Taverne Restaurant on Nov. 15 and Rogue’s Manor Restaurant on Dec. 20.