Federal grant opens two schools to new world of family activities
by: Jaime Valdez, Fourth-grader Kathy Madrigal-Villegas challenges Jose Alvarado in chess during the after-school programs.

A $1.3 million grant means that two Beaverton schools can run extensive after-school programs that focus on academics and enrichment opportunities.

Last week, William Walker Elementary School and Aloha-Huber Park K-8 School began four-day-a-week programs funded by a 21st Century Community Learning Grant, attracting a total of more than 375 students.

'It's incredible,' said Barbara Evans, principal of William Walker. 'The feedback we're getting from families participating has been very, very positive.'

The way the program is structured at William Walker, students have a choice of more than 20 classes they can attend during three periods Monday through Thursday.

Classes and activities include reading, writing, math, chess, yoga and running, and homework club, Spanish and others.

Then there's an outside agency component where organizations such as SOLV, Northwest Children's Theater, Portland State and other groups come in with their own staffs for enrichment programs.

Fabulous, awesome

In addition to classes and activities, the students receive a light dinner as well.

'Oh my gosh, it's fabulous,' Aloha-Huber Park Principal Patti Book said of the new program. 'It's awesome.'

Beginning next month, families will be involved as well.

'There's a huge parent piece that goes with it,' said Book.

Although not all the details have been finalized, Book said activities could include an Internet Cafe, allowing parents to search the Web for jobs or to work on homework if they are attending college programs.

Also, some single fathers at her school have expressed interest in cooking classes, Book said.

Other agencies are expected at her school as well to provide information or services.

'We're planning on having health and welfare resources in the evenings,' she said. 'The idea here is to serve the community.'

'Tears in my eyes'

The staff of both schools are involved in teaching most of the after-school classes at their respective schools. Coordinating the program at Aloha-Huber Park is Travis Roe with Jim Zaworski overseeing the William Walker program.

Marcia Haack, the Beaverton School District director of grant services who helped get the $1.3 million grant in 2004, said the district was excited about receiving such a large amount.

The money comes from the U.S. Department of Education, administered by the Oregon Department of Education with distribution earmarked for schools where more than 75 percent of the school population is at poverty level.

'The whole goal is to create community learning centers that will utilize the buildings during non-school (times),' said Haack.

The program continues during the summer.

Haack said she has been so moved by the enthusiasm of all of those involved that 'I get tears in my eyes.'

Let them play

A recent visit to William Walker found students actively engaged in numerous after-school activities. In one class, Emily Newman, a volunteer for AmeriCorps, helped third-graders with their reading.

Newman also helps teach students yoga as part of a yoga and running class at the school.

'I think they like it,' she said of her class of 20 boys and girls. 'They like to do some of the poses'

In the cafeteria, Michael Humphreys answered questions from students, teaching them the finer parts of chess as part of the 'Chess for Success' program, which originated in Portland Public Schools.

'We teach them a little strategy and then we let them play,' said Humphreys whose day job is that of a fourth- and fifth-grade English Language Learner teacher at the school.

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