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SK Boys, Girls Club attracts a crowd

The normal quiet of school campuses in the summer was broken by the bustle of kids scattering across the fields and through the building hallways.

Fifth and sixth graders at Sidney Glen Elementary School played behind the building, trying out games they had just invented inside. Devon Kowitz taught the group his invented game.

Broken up into three groups, one student tossed a hoola-hoop into the air while others attempted to hurl a ball through the middle.

Each successful toss won points for the competing team.

Though a little less organized than an Olympic event, the students laughed and tossed their hoola-hoops haphazardly around, sometimes hitting the target dead-center, other times throwing the hoops and balls in complete opposite directions.

The students were participating in the newly instated and alarmingly popular Port Orchard branch of the Boys and Girls Club.

Earlier this year, Port Orchard resi-dents and officials pulled together to get a Boys and Girls Club situated at one of the local elementary schools. Following a successful fund-raising drive, the dream came to quick fruition.

Hoping at a minimum to get a program started for the 2007-08 school year, the funding was able to put together a summer camp, as well..

Boys and Girls Club employees were surprised and overjoyed by the response once registration began. Compared to other area clubs that still have summer camp openings, the Port Orchard branch is filled to the limit, with 134 students registered.

“We had such an overwhelming response from the community,” Site Coordinator Wendy Hicks said. “In all my time that I’ve worked in Boys and Girls Club, I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

Students gather at the camp every weekday, with breaks for holidays like the Fourth of July. Hicks said family vacations fluctuates attendance, and each day the camp sees around 90 of the total 134 students.

The students break up into groups of first- and second-graders, the Pioneers; third- and fourth-graders, the Trailblazers; and fifth- and sixth-graders, the Caravans.

Each grade group cycles through different activity areas in the school, with sections focused on arts and crafts, active games and drama, outdoor games and guest speakers.

Each week the camp focuses on a single theme — last week was invention. Students learned about different inventors, and the group playing the hoola-hoop game worked on their own invented activities.

Each fifth- and sixth-grader had a chance to invent a game and teach the rest of the class a game.

The South Kitsap School District is working to bring in more funds to support the program, and hopefully expand to other campuses in the district.

Assistant Superintendent David LaRose said the district is pursuing two different grants, one from the Safe Schools/Healthy Grant program, which if awarded would create branches at other schools and create a teen center. The programs, LaRose said, would ideally come with virtually no cost to families.

The 21st Century Learning Center Grant would supplement the current program, lowering the cost to families. Currently families pay Boys and Girls Club tuition on a sliding scale based on income.

LaRose said there is not current date set for when the program would expand if awarded the grant.

“It would depend on whether we were informed we had an opportunity to expand or not,” LaRose said, explaining that the program could start at the fall, or mid-year depending on the timing and size of the grant.

“The long-term plan is to expand the program,” LaRose said. “If the funding is there, that would certainly empower us to expedite that timeline.”

The Sidney Glen program after school program will begin in the fall, regardless of the pending grants. Call 443-3441 for more information on the fall program.

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