BY RACHAEL GRAY
Thursday afternoon after school at Alta Brown Elementary School, students entered a classroom and sat down on the floor, some taking out books and homework.
They waited until their name was called to say, "here," signaling that they were present for Thursday's session of the Garden City Family YMCA after-school program.
After getting situated and getting a snack, the students in that session went out to play on the playground.
The after-school program at five sites around Garden City offers a service to parents who are still at work and want a supervised program for their children.
The cost of the program is $5 a week for parents.
Chad Knight, YMCA executive director, is proud of the program and the low cost to parents.
"To me, that's the proudest achievement to say — we're able to do $5 a week, that's $1 a day and 50 cents an hour. You can't get that anywhere else. That really drives it home for me," he said.
Knight also said the program would not be possible without the funding it receives from United Way.
The local United Way is expected to give the YMCA $35,000 from its 2012 annual fundraising campaign, funds that support the YMCA's after-school programs, where kids can catch up on their homework and get help from educators, play learning games or get physical activity outside, and hang out with friends.
The funding amount — the same the YMCA is receiving this year and received last year — benefits between 120 and 150 children at the programs at the following schools: Garfield Early Childhood Center, 121 W. Walnut St.; Victor Ornelas Elementary School, 3401 E. Spruce St.; Alta Brown Elementary School, 1110 E. Pine St.; Buffalo Jones Elementary School, 708 N. Taylor Ave.; and Georgia Matthews Elementary School, 111 E. Johnson St.
Danica Hellner, a teacher at Alta Brown, helps with the program there. She said she got involved in helping with the after-school programs at the YMCA about two years ago and decided it would be convenient to help with the program in her building.
"It gives them a place to go other than the streets," she said.
"There's that, then financially it's beneficial to parents who may not have other options for their students after school," she said.
Knight agreed with Hellner.
"It helps out the kids and gets them off the streets. That's when the most illegal activities happen, is after school. That is what the sheriff has told me," he said.
Knight said it also helps feed the kids.
"Everyone knows the kids are hungry after school. This gives them quality services and a snack," he said.
It also gets kids moving, he said.
"You know we have this initiative to get kids to exercise from our first lady Michelle Obama — this gets them active on the playground or sometimes they get to go swimming at the Y," he said.
Knight said he's most proud of the cost.
"It's just a great program. For them to just get a snack after school (without the program) would be $5. We have great parent support and great support from United Way and the community," he said.
The local United Way's annual campaign goal is $550,000 for 2013, the same as it has been for the last few years.
The 21 partner agencies for the 2013 campaign include: Miles of Smiles; Russell Child Development Center; Finney County RSVP; Kansas Children's Service League; Catholic Social Service; Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Program; Smart Start; Playground Program; Family Crisis Services; Spirit of the Plains, CASA; The Salvation Army; Meals on Wheels; Habitat for Humanity; Garden City Family YMCA; Garden City Chapter of the Red Cross; Santa Fe Trail Council of the Boy Scouts of America; Community Day Care Center; United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries; United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney and Kearny Counties; and Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland.