Children First: Sturgis After School Program Runs on Federal Funds

South Dakota’s budget cuts are causing school administrators to take a hard look at what’s important and what they can do without. But without a lot of funds to trim, KOTA Territory school districts could lose essential program and cause many parents to worry about where their children will go when school lets out.

“My mom usually isn’t home after school, so I can’t go home,” says fifth grader Dillon Brazil.

Dillon Brazil is one of about thirty kids who attend the Sturgis Area After school Program, it’s free to all area 4th through 8th graders.

“I learn a lot of new things here and I really like it and I’m glad they were able to put this together,” says Brazil.

Shawn Koontz, the academic coordinator for the program, says some area schools had to cancel their after school programs altogether because of budget cuts in South Dakota. These students are fortunate that this program has federal funds, for now.

“At least in the mean time, with us not having to deal with the cuts, it gives the kids some place to go, someplace to learn, helping the parents out so it’s one less thing they have to worry about,” says Koontz.

Kids are bused from three Sturgis schools and when they arrive they just right into their routine. First they check in, then a snack, followed by quiet reading time. After closing their books, the kids break off into groups for a variety of educational activities. Some learn about history or how to play an instrument.

“I just love being here, it’s just really fun,” says fifth grader Hannah Rambow.

“You get a lot of experience by the activities we do like cooking, art, pottery, and guitar, everything you do here. It’s just a great experience,” says fifth grader Autumn Bond.

While other kids get extra help with their homework. Teachers from local schools work together with the program staff to make sure each student receives the help they need in certain subjects.

Johnetta Lewis says the after school program has helped her kids get caught up with their school work. Before joining the program Lewis says her two foster children were behind and missing many assignments.

“That has tremendously decreased since I’ve put the two into the program. In the beginning we had a lot of missing assignments and now we are down to only a few because of the communication between the two,” says Lewis.

“With everyone working as team this could be very successful and it could make up for some of those losses that the schools have to overcome,” says Koontz.

Koontz hopes the program will help keep kids on track, despite the cut backs at school.


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