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Students Enjoy Staying After Program Combines Games With Anti-Drug Message

Cassi Burnett’s stellar flight across the Ponderosa Elementary School playground ended when she tripped over another kite-flier’s string.

TJ Short shot 2,175 pounds of game on the Oregon Trail but could carry away only 200 pounds.

The second- and third-graders didn’t mind. It’s all part of the fun of the Ponderosa Activities Club.

Instead of rushing home, nearly 100 children look forward to staying after school each day. The club is new this year, the result of a $78,847 federal Drug-Free Schools grant.

“It’s fun,” TJ said while hunting buffalo and deer in an educational computer game. If he weren’t in the club, “I’d be home sleeping,” he figured.

Tara Smart, 8, would be at her baby sitter’s if she weren’t in the club. Instead, after school she was learning how to do backward somersaults and wrestle.

“Hoooo, that’s fun,” she exclaimed at the end of a series of backward rolls that freed a pink hair tie from her ponytail. “It makes me dizzy.”

The club is one of four programs federal money is supporting at Post Falls schools this year.

With the same money, the school district also hired a family-resource specialist to help families find housing, jobs, medical care and other services. Mentors were hired for each school to provide another adult for a variety of student needs, including friendship, tutoring and advice out on the playground.

Another hire was for a coordinator for volunteer mentors to work with students.

The point of all the projects is to help children cope with hardship and survive difficult times. Researchers say resilient kids typically are outgoing, motivated and have a caring adult in their lives.

Ponderosa’s after-school club gives kids a chance to connect with adults outside the classroom, make new friends and learn crafts and skills.

They get a drug-free message every day. One recent day, they listed reasons why smoking is bad.

“It turns your teeth yellow. You smell. You can die,” were a few of the drawbacks named.

Another day, they learned to recognize the difference between candy and pills.

Kids love the Ponderosa Activities Club.

So many want to join the free program that each four-week session has had a waiting list. Organizers had to prohibit students from enrolling more than once.

“We’re just overwhelmed,” said Kitty Brunn, a teacher and coordinator of the program. “They’re enthusiastic throughout the day. And at the end of the day, they’re still pumped up because it’s PAC-time.”

The original idea was formed around giving “latch-key” kids of working parents a place to go after school, other than an empty house.

School administrators want to continue the program next year and expand it to other schools, but they have not found a new source of funding.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: BREAKING GROUND The Ponderosa Activities Club is the result of a $78,847 federal Drug-Free Schools grant.

This sidebar appeared with the story: BREAKING GROUND The Ponderosa Activities Club is the result of a $78,847 federal Drug-Free Schools grant.