Wednesday, June 22, 2011

YAK seeks funds for after-school program

County budget hearings continue

Express Staff Writer

Middle-school latchkey kids could soon have somewhere else to go after school, if the Blaine County Commission approves a funding request from a local youth coalition.

"After-school time is really critical for middle school students," said Dan Vanden Heuvel, coordinator of St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center's Youth Adult Konnections (YAK) program. "There are a lot of programs geared toward K-5 and high school, but not for middle school."

Vanden Heuvel told commissioners that middle school students are at an age at which parents are beginning to allow them to come home and remain unsupervised for longer periods of time. Because the options for students are limited apart from organized sports, Vanden Heuvel said, students often fall into destructive behavior.

As a result, YAK requested $2,500 from the county to develop a comprehensive middle school program at the Community Campus in Hailey.

Vanden Heuvel said the program would include academic support as well as intramural sports and classes on topics such as cooking and origami. Students would also be given the chance to participate in community service.

"Not only does that help kids stay out of trouble, often kids need some sort of resource for being able to do community service," Vanden Heuvel said.

YAK has already partnered with the Blaine County School District, which has offered to provide transportation from Wood River Middle School to the Community Campus as well as two staff members, and the Blaine County Recreation District.

County funds would not go toward paying staff or operating costs, Vanden Heuvel said, just the programs themselves.

"One hundred percent of the funds we are requesting can go to programs that help students," he said. "This $2,500 can really go a long way."

Budget hearings will continue throughout the month before the commissioners set a tentative budget in early August. The final budget will be set in early September before the fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Katherine Wutz:

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