When school gets out for the day at Salt River Elementary School (SRES), Salt River Recreation Department staff members are there to pick up children ages 8 to 13 who are enrolled in the department’s after-school program. The program meets from 3:15 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and can accommodate 30 children; currently it is operating at full capacity. The majority of the children are Community members and children of Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community employees.
The afternoon features structured activities for the children. Once they arrive at the Recreation Building, they enjoy snack time. In the room where the program meets there is a small kitchen area, where the instructors teach the children how to make quick snacks. “This is called cooking class,” said Stan Overturf who is a Recreation Coordinator II, “We use this time to teach the children how to make easy snacks like smoothies, chili beans with corn chips, pizza and root beer floats. It’s simple stuff that an eight-year-old can make.” After snack time comes the homework session, from 3:40 to 4:15 p.m.
After their homework session or on early-release days, staff may have special activities planned, such as the 4-H program. Representatives from Maricopa County 4-H visit the Community once a month, sometimes stopping by Lehi and the Early Childhood Education Center.
The children always have plenty of options. The program offers “Movie Day” and gym games once a week, they go to the park for physical activities, and they make arts and crafts. Every other Wednesday the kids go on a field trip to an amusement facility like Makutu’s Island, BounceU or bowling.
But it’s not all fun and games. SRES teachers inform Recreation staff if a particular student needs extra help with class work or struggles with reading and homework. In addition, if children don’t have homework with them when they arrive for the afternoon, then they must spend some time reading. Once a month the program gives back and cleans up around various areas in the Community.
The Recreation Department has offered the after-school program to more than 300 children over the last decade. It is a positive place where children can do their homework and see others doing the same.
“I like the after-school program because I can get a lot of homework done in here,” said Joshua Carlisle, who is in the third grade.
“We always get all our work done and we don’t get in trouble in school,” said eight-year-old Gabriel Shaw.
Overturf said communication is the key with the children. “I would say it’s a great program for the kids, and you can tell their grades are getting better in the classroom because we help them,” he said.