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GEMS students given option for after school hang-out

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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Every Thursday afternoon, youth gather at Glen Edwards Middle School for basketball, crafts, pizza and conversation. School Principal Shelly Hoover and campus volunteer Miguel Olivo hope to keep the weekly gathering from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursdays going in the future, with the possibility of expanding the number of days. ?I have been meeting with students since February, with the idea of creating a safe environment to keep the kids out of trouble,? Olivo said. ?We started meeting every Thursday at 3 p.m. and myself and five students started playing basketball. As the weeks started progressing, more and more kids started showing up.? This year was Hoover?s first at Glen Edwards Middle School and she talked about how the after-school program was started. ?Last year being my first year, I would walk the campus and see kids hanging out in the hallways well after school let out,? Hoover said. ?I would ask them, ?What do you need,? and they said they wanted to hang out. It was obvious that the kids needed a safe place to be after school.? Hoover, who attends church with Olivo, approached him about putting together a program. Olivo became a volunteer Thursdays since he ?wanted to observe math teachers.? Olivo is currently attending the University of Phoenix to earn a teaching credential and wants to become a middle-school math teacher. ?The more positive adults, especially males, that we can get on campus is beneficial and he would come in as a volunteer. He would help in the classroom and help out at lunch,? Hoover said. ?He?s a volunteer that has a heart to hang out with kids while he?s working on his teaching credential.? Olivo, in February, started staying on campus on Thursdays to play basketball with and provide pizza to students ?who stuck around after school,? according to Hoover. ?Myself and a couple of other teachers and staff members opened up a classroom for crafts and they?ve done crocheting, made notebook covers, lanyards and bracelets so there?s something for boys and girls to do,? Hoover said. Hoover, Olivo and teachers and staff members are always present during the program, according to Hoover and Olivo. As the weeks went on, the number of students attending the after-school program jumped from 20 to 40, and by the end of the school year, 100, according to Olivo. ?As more and more publicity started spreading, we hit 100 kids two weeks in a row,? Olivo said. ?I?ve been providing pizza and drinks for them so they don?t go home on an empty stomach.? The program is not as popular in the summer as during the school year, according to Olivo. ?We play basketball for an hour and, after that, we hydrate and start talking about whatever they want to talk about, from school to life situations and boy/girl issues,? Olivo said. ?By us eating and hanging out, they open up a whole lot more, and when they sign in, I personally look at their grades to see if they?re doing OK.? Olivo said attendance should return when school starts. Hoover would like the program to increase from one to three days. ?My dream would be Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to have 300 well-supervised and engaged kids,? Hoover said. ?You don?t have to read too much into what goes on with middle-school kids between 3 and 6 p.m., (for example) experiment with sex, drugs and alcohol.? Although the school received a $6,000 grant from the Western Placer Unified School District for craft supplies and basketballs, monetary donations are needed to feed the students during the program, Hoover said. ?My goal, overall, for what I want to do with this program is to have a safe place for kids to hang out,? Hoover said. ?First to meet physical, social and emotional needs, and secondarily, so that kids who don?t engage on an academic level at school can engage on a different level.? Hoover said engaging on a different level ?can make campus a positive place to be.? ?That will flow into their academics,? Hoover said. ?We can reach them on a different level and instill that they can be successful.? Volunteers are also needed for the program, according to Olivo, to help supervise the adolescents, play games with them and interact with them. Andre Pustovoytov, 15, who recently graduated from Glen Edwards Middle School and will attend Lincoln High School, still attends the program during the summer. ?I would be sitting at home and that?s boring,? Andre said. ?It gives me something to do.? Hearing about the program through the school?s weekly informational broadcast, Logan Poulsen, 11, said he would ?be sitting at home playing video games? on Thursday afternoons if it wasn?t for the program. ?It?s pretty fun,? Poulsen said. Dominick Sanders, 13, said he and his friends have been attending the program since it started. ?We would start with playing basketball. It started out with three people and ended with 150, ?Dominick said. ?I was telling my friends about it. They all came and wanted to play.? All three boys listed basketball as their favorite part of the program. ?All of my friends play basketball,? Dominick said. ?I like just hanging out with my friends after school and that we don?t have to hang out for just five minutes (during passing period) or 30 minutes during lunch.?