Students Find New Hobbies at After-School Program

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COLUMBIA - The Boys & Girls Club of Columbia is holding an after-school program on school grounds for the first time ever. Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary School is the first school in the Columbia Public School district to host this program.

Students participating in the program are typically bused in from school to the Boys & Girls Club clubhouse on Seventh Street, however this year, Alpha Hart Lewis is the exception. During the 2012-2013 school year, more than 30 students from the school attended the Clubhouse facility on Seventh Street, and it was by far the largest group of students from one elementary school The Boys & Girls Club was serving, said executive director Valorie Livingston.

Livingston said, "We felt like this school really needed a Boys & Girls Club on campus due to the school having 78 percent of students on the free and reduced price lunch program."

The program is aimed at giving youths of all ages, especially at-risk youths, a safe, active and positive learning environment after school.

Livingston, along with faculty members and parents, saID they have already seen tremendous success in homework completion and participation.

One mother agrees. It is the first year Karla Ware, a mother of two Alpha Hart Lewis students, has had her children in the program. Daughter Kailey is a second grader and son Herman is a kindergartner.

Ware said, "I've noticed Kailey seems to enjoy reading a lot more and her reading has come up a couple grade levels."

Ware and her husband both have jobs that require them to work late hours, and the program allows her children to participate in a variety of educational programs they would not otherwise get to participate in due to two working parents, said Ware.

Kailey said she finds herself reading more books, up to five a week, and she has even made friends with other students her brother's age in the program. However, she does admit that once she gets home, she likes to eat food and watch TV.

As for Herman, "He seems to be a bit more focused and he's gained some new friendships with kids outside of his class," said Karla Ware.

The Boys & Girls Club has three different club sites: Alpha Hart Lewis, Seventh Street and Ridgeway. The Ridgeway club is not located on that elementary school's campus, but across the street from the school. The Boys & Girls Club hopes to serve 600 students this school year.