The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Michele Smith
the Times 

The Club offers a safe, comfortable environment for youth in the afterschool hours

Emphasis is on prosocial behavior

 

December 19, 2019



DAYTON—Jim Pearson manages the afterschool program in Dayton called the Club.

When Jim Pearson first started working at the Club in September 2018, the goal for the afterschool program was to provide students with high value educational activities.

It soon became apparent that socio-emotional learning was going to take precedence, Pearson said.

He said some of the students are dealing with trauma, on a daily basis, which interferes with school attendance and performance.

Staff at the Club are from diverse backgrounds and they are trained to “sit shoulder to shoulder” with the students and be sensitive, supportive, and to model positive behavior for them.

“We want to help kids understand they are in charge of their own lives. This will be a long-term process,” he said. “The hardest part is taking one step forward and one step back. But there are observable improvements.”

This year there are 110 paid memberships.

On Oct. 1, the Club received a $10,000 award from the Discuren Charitable Foundation for the purpose of increasing participation at the Club.

Pearson said attendance has increased by 15 percent over last year, with the addition of Teen Night.

Conversations took place this fall between Chelsey Eaton, the Coordinator for the Coalition for Youth and Families, the high school administrators, and the ASB Leadership Council, about how to organize Teen Night and to address prosocial behavior.

The overarching goal for Teen Night is to allow teens to have a safe place where adult staff can listen and offer guidance, Pearson said.

Pearson said the ASB Leadership Council has stepped up and is now completely in charge of planning and scheduling for Teen Night.

Twenty-eight youth attended the first Teen Night, which was held on Nov. 4. That night was devoted to karaoke, and featured disc jockey David Long from Waitsburg. Karaoke Night was followed two weeks later with an open house to “just hang out”, and the students played ping pong, foosball, and pool, and ate pizza.

“They seemed content,” Pearson said.

The students will be slurping root beer floats and painting at a “Paint and Slurp” activity, overseen by the owner of Brushes and Brix in Walla Walla on Wed. Dec. 18 from 7-9 p.m.

Pearson said he overstaffed the first Teen Night because he didn’t know what to expect in the way of behavior, but he said he is impressed with the teens’ behavior, overall.

“The kids have done an incredible job of managing themselves. Our role has been to monitor and observe and see what the next steps are,” he said.

There are currently thirty-eight high school students registered for Teen Night. Pearson said he would like to have more students from Waitsburg participate.

“This is an opportunity for Waitsburg High School students to have the same opportunity,” he said.

The public health department is paying for the first thirty memberships for Teen Night, and the Club’s residual funding is paying for memberships for the rest for this school year.

The Club is also offering a new program, for students in grades K-3, at the first of the year called Opening Books, Opening Doors, aimed at increasing literacy.

Pearson said research has shown that children in the third grade who don’t read at the 3rd grade level have a diminished chance of succeeding as adults.

“This is a good way to promote success after school,” he said.

He will need volunteers for the Opening Books, Opening Doors program, so that each child can be paired with an adult. The goal is to not only increase literacy but to establish positive child and adult relationships.

Funding for Opening Books, Opening Doors is through the Innovia Foundation of Spokane, which is the Club’s largest monetary contributor.

The Club has undergone other fundamental shifts in its organizational practices in the year since Pearson has been the director.

This includes a revamping of food services, turning away from the U.S.D.A model, because of food waste and lost revenue.

Youth are now getting substantial and healthy snacks through funding from the Blue Mountain Action Council. They can choose items such as yogurt, fruit, and whole grain foods, and decide how much they want.

Of course, on Teen Night, the most desirable food is pizza and soda, and they are getting that, Pearson said.

For information about membership, or to volunteer in the Opening Books, Opening Doors program, contact Jim Pearson by phone at: (509) 730-5360.

 

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