By Sarah March
The YMCA's school-aged child care program is more than booming in the Western New York area. In particular, the Lewiston-Porter school-age child care program is doing exceptionally well and the children who attend the program are learning valuable lessons from the program.
The program is run daily both in the morning and the afternoon.
A typical morning consists of the children being dropped off by their parents between 7 and 8:30 a.m. During that time, children will oftentimes color, read, make slime or power balls, play in groups, or go to the gym.
At around 8:45 a.m., the children are dismissed to their classrooms where they are ready for a fun-filled day of education.
A normal afternoon in the SACC program starts with the children being picked up from their respective schools at 3:30 p.m. and then heading to the SACC room. Once there, older students who have homework will receive the help they need from the counselors on that homework. Before they can do any other activities, a counselor must check to see the student as completed all of their assignments unless specified by a parent or guardian.
Right after homework time, the students have snack. The snack is in accordance with healthy eating and physical activity (HEPA) curriculum set by the YMCA, making sure it meets at least two of the food groups. Snack can range from cheese sticks to veggie straws to graham crackers to fresh fruit or vegetables.
After snack, the students will usually participate in either some curriculum work in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) with making slime, or will go to the gym to work off some of the energy they have by playing gym games.
As the afternoon starts to turn into evening and children are being picked up by their parents, the students will get some free time, where they are allowed to let their imagination run wild and play pretend.
When the last child leaves, Rachelle Osher and Diane Noel are still hard at work cleaning up the room and equipment used that day, ensuring the children will come to a clean and sanitary environment the next day. They also make sure they have the supplies they need to be able to give the children an exciting and educational experience.
The SACC program at Lewiston-Porter is doing so well partly because there are some new faces leading the program in-house. Two new faces have taken the program by storm this school year and their hard work is really paying off.
Osher is the program's new on-site director. She is accompanied by SACC aide Noel, who also happens to be her mother. This mother-daughter duo has brought new life and energy to the program and the students have taken to the activities extremely well.
Both Osher and Noel transferred into the Lewiston-Porter program from the Henry Abate School District SACC program in Niagara Falls earlier in the school year. Their success at Lewiston-Porter does not come as much surprise, as the students and parents at Abate were very sad to see them go.
Osher works hard daily to ensure the students are getting what they need. She says, "Working for this program is such a rewarding job. It comes with its stresses but, at the end of the day, you get to make a positive impact on each child's life - and there is really nothing that can compare to the satisfaction of it all."
The duo has revitalized the program by putting their own twist on the areas of focus of the YMCA.
3 Areas of Focus for Curriculum
One initiative the program has kept in tradition from a very successful summer camp program is giving fabric ties to the students when they represent the four core values of the YMCA: honesty, responsibility, caring and respect. The fabric ties come in four colors: blue, green, red and yellow. One tie is given to the child to keep and one is tied onto a string across one wall of the room. The string eventually fills up one by one with the ties the children receive and, soon enough, the room is filled with the four colors.
The children are always so excited when the receive a tie, and many children have started repeatedly doing the acts that get them the ties - like helping a friend pick up a mess or check on a friend who got hurt during gym time - even though they know they will not always get a tie for the small acts of kindness and caring.
The children get so much out of the program, but so do Osher and Noel. Noel is the "grandma" of the group, but she says she does not feel her age when she is around the children.
"They keep me young for sure. They call me 'Grandma,' and I love being able to be a grandparent figure for these kids, but they really do keep me on my toes," Noel said.
On a given day, one could see Noel chasing kids down if they get a little too far out of reach after getting off the bus or coloring right alongside the students.
The program is a great success, in part, because of Osher and Noel. The children love coming to the program so much so that some of them even made their parents bring them in the two days before Thanksgiving break when they are not normally scheduled so they can play with their friends and have the experiences they have at the SACC program.
The SACC program is a vital part of most of these children's lives. It is somewhere they know they are safe and can share any hardship they might be having. It is a place where they get to create bonds with other children and make lasting relationships.
Without the support of the parents and the community, and of course Osher and Noel, the program would not be what it is today.