Once the bell rings to signal the end of the school day, it can be difficult for some parents to find a safe place until they return home from work for their children to stay.
Members of the Clarks Summit Elementary PTA (Parent Teachers Association) felt there was a need for supervised activities at the school and worked quickly to fill the void.
“The after school program derived from many parents asking for other programs and activities to be offered after school,” Clarks Summit Elementary PTA President Lisette Kozar said. “Many parents were wanting to have a program where their kids could go to a safe place to play, socialize and have fun with their peers. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Mahon, other Abington personnel, and Principal Kevin Rogan, Cathy Wickenheiser, Amanda O’Dell and myself coordinated all of our efforts and put the program together in a matter of just a few months. With all the support of the parents, we were able to pull it off.”
O’Dell was thrilled to be a part of the new program.
“One of the other local schools, Waverly Elementary, has an after-school program called ‘Club Waverly,’” she said. “My daughter, Madeline, is a kindergartner here so I thought, being a new parent, that it would be great to have a program in our school as well,” Amanda O’Dell said.
The club currently offers Zumba and checkers on Wednesdays and art and LEGOs on Thursdays from 3 to 4:15 p.m. There are 90-100 students involved within the four activities this year. The cost is $25 per activity.
“They all have been equally as popular,” Kozar said. “They all filled out within the first three minutes that we opened up our signups.”
The organizers had to curtail the number of participants due to high demand.
“We limited it to about 20 to 25 kids per activity and once we reached that number, we closed off registration for the current year,” Kozar said.
The club will likely have several new activities added next year.
“We’re talking about doing yoga, an etiquette class, possibly Spanish and American sign language and bowl ing,” Kozar said.
Kozar has been pleased with the success of the club in its inaugural year.
“This is our first run through so we didn’t really know what to expect, but the kids are so excited about it,” she said. “You can hear them talking about it during the school day. And I know the parents appreciate it too, because some are struggling with finding something for their kids to do right after school.”
Kozar believes the camaraderie between the student is a key advantage.
“They get to interact with not just kids in their grade, but also in older grades,” she said. “I think the socialization is a big component of the program.”
Kozar enjoys seeing the joy on the children’s faces while they are participating in the program.
“Just seeing the kids laughing and smiling, and getting along with one another,” Kozar said. “I think that’s great and it’s something fun for them to do with their friends.”
O’Dell has received a lot of positive feedback from parents whose children are in the program and disappointment from those who missed the cutoff.
“One of the most rewarding things for me to see is how excited the parents were,” she said. “I’ve gotten calls after it was closed and I would use the word devastation that their child couldn’t get in. It feels like this should have been in place years ago.”
“We couldn’t have done this without all the parents who volunteer because you can’t have 30 kids with one teacher, you need parents here, especially at this age, to help supervise.”
There are 8 to 10 regular volunteers and they had no problem rounding up willing helpers.
“We’ve got a lot of eager beavers,” Kozar said.
Art volunteer Jennifer LaBelle jumped at the chance to help out with their program.
“It was a great opportunity to volunteer and be with the kids,” she said.
Her daughter, Cara, a fourth-grader, is a member of the club. “She enjoys learning about art and really likes painting,” Jennifer LaBelle said.
Second-grader Sydney Degnon enjoyed getting some fresh air while creating a picture.
“I like to look at nature and do all kinds of fun staff,” she said.