After-school program makes an impact | SLIDESHOW

Like a neighborhood convenience store offering tasty treats, schools should be open at all hours to feed a growing child's appetite for learning.

Kimberly Andrade

Like a neighborhood convenience store offering tasty treats, schools should be open at all hours to feed a growing child’s appetite for learning.

An administrator can only dream about such a likelihood, right?

“My vision of a school was to be open 24 hours a day, like a 7-Eleven, where you can get a Slurpee and all that stuff,” Isaiah Johnson, the principal at Cascade Middle School, told parents and students assembled in the school’s gymnasium last week to honor the work of an after-school program.

“I believe the school is the focal point of a community. If things are happening at school in a positive way, that means things are happening in the neighborhood in a positive way,” Johnson said. “This program, the things that you see, is the beginning of the many more things that we are going to add here … and I’m excited about that.”

Johnson and other school officials gathered June 11 at the middle school to praise the impact of the Auburn Valley YMCA Community Learning Center (CLC), a grant-funded, year-round program designed to help students boost grades, improve attendance and develop life and social skills.

The CLC – a collaborative effort of the Y, the City of Auburn and the Auburn School District – offers academic and enrichment opportunities to students at no cost to families. The City and OSPI (Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction) help fund the program.

School staff identifies students to participate in the program at each school. Struggling kids gain the help they need to learn and adjust as they transition from the elementary to the middle school environment.

Students are given an outdoor activity time, followed by homework help in small groups. CLC staff helps students complete assigned homework in groups organized by grade level. Students are also given opportunities to participate in enrichments, such as art, music, games, drama, dance, cooking, sports or other activities.

So far, the program has been a hit, according to Roxana Pardo Garcia, the leadership development director for the Valley Y. The program served about 50 Washington Elementary and 100 Cascade Middle School students in its first year.

The program culminates in a free, six-week summer camp (June 29 to Aug. 7).

“We just try and re-engage them,” Pardo Garcia said. “It’s a very unique partnership.”

Acquiring the program took considerable time and effort. Johnson applied several times for a federal grant but was turned down. Eventually, adding Washington Elementary’s needs to the equation improved Auburn’s stock and its chances to obtain the grant.

“We didn’t stop. We continued to apply,” Johnson said. “They ended up saying yes, and that’s why we have this wonderful program today.

“It goes without saying, ‘Just because they tell you no, it doesn’t mean you stop trying.'”



Isaiah Johnson, the principal at Cascade Middle School, praises the Auburn Valley YMCA Community Learning Center’s program at an awards assembly last week. Far right is Roxana Pardo Garcia, the program’s coordinator. Mark Klaas, Auburn Reporter

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