A place to thrive

Crook County Parks and Recreation offers a host of activities for children year round

by: RAMONA MCCALLISTER/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Casyn Jamasen and Lakyra Walker, kids in the After The Bell program, work on creating their science notebooks, which will be used to hold data throughout the year in science projects.

Where can you shoot off water rockets, become a better athlete, or create an artistic masterpiece?
   If you are a child in Crook County, the Parks and Recreation offers a cadre of activities to choose from all year long. But what are the real benefits of having kids engaged in the programs, and what do they really offer?
   Joey Williams, Office Manager for Crook County Parks and Recreation, said that they offer a wide variety of programs for all ages of kids between newborn and 12 years of age, as well as many programs for teens and adults.
   There are numerous programs for all ages, and just a few of the choices include karate, hunter’s education, music and art classes, square dancing, tennis, basketball, gymnastics, soccer, flag football, and the After The Bell program.
   Williams said that there are several families who use their programs most of the year.
   “I would say that the majority of the parents that use Parks and Recreation try to keep their kids busy,” she said.
   Dana Martin has had her two sons in Parks and Recreation for many years to keep them active and physical. Although the oldest is now an adult, he has also benefitted from the wide choice of activities throughout his childhood.
   Martin said that her youngest son is much younger than his sibling, so she looks for positive activities that allow him to be with kids his age.
   “The activities are awesome for him to get to interact with other kids his age,” said Martin. “I think it’s great for social skills too.”
   She thinks it’s important to get him away from the television and video games, and Parks and Recreation does just that.
   “I think it’s good to keep them really busy,” said Martin.
   She thinks that in the summer it can be difficult to keep kids busy, and she has always appreciated the activities afforded by Parks and Recreation. Her kids have participated in the summer plays, basketball, soccer, karate, and the bike rodeo offered in the summer.
   Jeremy Green is the director for the After The Bell program, which is sponsored collaboratively by the Crook County Parks and Recreation, Crook County 4-H, and the Crook County School District.
   “That program specifically introduces kids to the different youth outlets in Prineville,” said Green.
    They have also added a component that includes volunteers with the SMART program, as well as a new partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters. The kids have academic help with their mentors, and also receive a new book every month to take home from SMART. Green said that they have tracked the student’s achievement in reading, math, and science since the program began last year.
   Students who have been actively engaged have improved their reading skills dramatically. Green said that parental feedback has reinforced this fact, and a lot of the kids from last year have signed up again.
   “In youth organizations specifically, kids gain confidence, compassion, and character,” said Green. “There is so much gained by being plugged into youth-serving organizations.”
   Students eagerly weighed in on what they liked best about the program, while taking some time out on the playground.
   “I like the After The Bell Program because at the end of the year, we get to make water rockets,” said Casyn Jameson.
   Another student in the class exclaimed that he liked the science projects because he learned new things he didn’t know before. He also liked making new friends.
   Green said that peer-to-peer interactions, the interaction of other adult role models, and having a supportive and safe environment all lead to thriving youth as they enter adulthood.
   “These are the types of things youth gain by being involved in Parks and Recreation.”
   Green is also the 4-H leader for Crook County OSU Extension office. He noted that Parks and Recreation offers many things that 4-H can’t do.
   “Parks and Recreation offers something for everyone.”
   He also feels strongly about the structure of classes in Parks and Recreation that encourages parental involvement.
   “A parent that is engaged with their kids — particularly at a young age — is going to be that much more engaged when they get older, when those kids really need that support.”
   Williams noted that some working parents have scheduling issues, and have a child care provider or family member stay with them.
   “Most of our classes do require the parents to stay, or a guardian of some sort stays.”
   She added that this is especially true of active classes, such as sports-related activities. Some classes are designed more for family-participation, while others--like tennis tournament classes are structured for kids who are focused and working on specific skills.
   “I think it benefits the children and it benefits the community,” she said.
   Williams noted that there are scholarships available for low-income families.
   “We want them to be able to participate. If we can even give one scholarship we are excited about it.”