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SHARP program looking for more involvement from community


Fifth-graders Madyson Voss (from left) and Damien Blake, with sixth-grader Gaven White display the energy of elementary-age kids during their snack time in the after-school SHARP Kids program Jan. 25. - Jacob Wagner photos

An after-school program in place at Lake Roosevelt is hoping to recruit more volunteers to help enrich kids' understanding of the world and be better prepared to face it as they get older.

The SHARP Kids program, which stands for "Safe, Honest, Aware, Respectful, and Present," is in its 13th year, with around 120 kids of all ages involved. The age groups are first through third grade, fourth and fifth, sixth through eighth, and high school.

SHARP Kids is funded by a federal 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, distributed by Washington state's Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction office, which put $280,495 into the program for the 2016-2017 school year, including $7,718 left over from last year.

A morning program runs Monday through Friday from 7 to 8 a.m. when kids enjoy a shake or juice, do homework or play games. In the afternoon, the program runs Monday through Thursday, from 3 until 5:30 p.m. A summer program also runs for five weeks.

"Our main goal is to help kids be successful," said Nancy Kuiper, the program's head organizer. "We provide a snack right after school, then go into homework tutoring. We provide a physical activity so that kids can get some exercise after sitting in school all day. Then it branches off into enrichment activities."

Those activities include arts and crafts, science projects, and a number of clubs, including book clubs, writing clubs, photography, audio/visual, and a school newspaper, The Grand News, which has a student staff of four and is published online on the school's website.

Editor for the school's newspaper is freshman Lindsey Weaver, who says the experience offers her "leadership skills, experience in talking and answering questions, diligence, writing skills, and how to get things done."

Jesse Utz, who is in charge of the high school portion of the program, spoke a bit about the merits of SHARP Kids. "We brought grades up, we had some success stories, we had some seniors that weren't going to graduate who did graduate," he said. "It's just a pleasure being able to help most of these kids. Mostly it's just teaching kids that they can do stuff themselves if they set their minds to it, set goals and go achieve them."

Utz emphasized the need for volunteers who are fluent in Spanish to come help the kids with their Spanish homework.

Ideas for skills that volunteers can help teach the children include: photography, painting, and other arts; remodeling, carpentry, and house repairs; automotive skills, such as how to change oil, a tire, or how to stock your car in case of an emergency; or cooking and sewing. Kuiper emphasized that the possibilities are endless.

The program has access to buses which could transport the children locally for on-site experience. The program also has access to the home-economics room where there are ovens and other kitchen equipment for culinary projects.

High school students use a computer lab for reading and schoolwork after school.

"We have a lot of flexibility and don't have to follow a curriculum," said Steve Phillips, who is also involved in the program. Philips emphasizes the importance of teaching the kids life skills, practical knowledge that will help them in the real world. Some ideas he'd like to see the community help teach the kids include money management, how to apply for a job, witnessing professional environments and any other demonstrations, hands-on projects, or telling of success stories that can help inspire confidence in the kids.

"We would absolutely love any involvement," Kuiper said. "We want to prepare these kids for life in practical skills."

The program can work with any timeframe that would suit a volunteer.

Anybody interested in volunteering for the program and imparting wisdom to the younger generations should contact Kuiper at 509-631-3149

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