Tuesday, March 29, 2011

TOP STORY >> After school means fun in Sherwood

Special to The Leader

About 37 joy-filled boys and girls ran around playing games, taking advantage of a sunny mid-morning and afternoon, on Thursday at Pinnacle Mountain State Park.

The children were there on a field trip with Sherwood’s afterschool program offered at the Bill Harmon Recreation Center, 51 Shelby Road.

During the school year, parents can pay to have children attending the city’s public schools picked up and treated to a variety of recreational activities until 6 on weekday evenings, said program coordinator Blake Calloway.

The program also has access to the Oakbrook playground.

“I love working with kids,” Calloway said. “Absolutely love making sure the kids are taken care of and have a positive influence in their lives. It keeps you feeling very, very young.”

The program accepts children enrolled in kindergarten through fifth grade. One child costs $55 a week and $30 more for each additional child.

In the summer, the center offers day camp for children from as far away as Little Rock and Hazen. The day camp costs $75 a week for one child, and $45 for each additional child.

The registration for each family is $30 for both programs.

Right now, there are 56 children in the program. The capacity is 68.

Calloway said the program receives funds in the form of an annual budget through the Parks and Recreation Department.

What really makes this program run well is the dedication of its workers. Some of the counselors who helped out with Thursday’s field trip were on spring break from college, but help out with the day camp during the summer.

Several of the counselors who take care of the children were in fact enrolled in the program, which was established in the mid-‘90s, when they were younger.

Shalee Bradford, 20, of Sherwood, was one such counselor. She’s been working with the program since she turned 16 and was enrolled as a child until she was 14.

“What I like about this job is how much you can influence a child’s life and how much they can influence yours,” Bradford said.

She is attending UALR and majoring in nursing and Spanish.

Roderick “Rodeo” (as the other counselors call him) Barnes of Little Rock is another counselor who enjoyed the program as a child.

Barnes attends Arkansas Tech University in Russellville and is majoring in broadcast journalism. He said he loved the field trips when he was a child and has worked for the program since age 16. He’s noticed a lot of changes, such as “the simple stuff kept us interested” in comparison to the DS portable game system that is popular with many children now.

Samantha Ramirez, 24, of Sherwood started working for the program last June. She is attending UALR and majoring is psychology.

“I enjoy working with children,” she said. “It’s a thrilling and exciting experience for me.”