If you're a middle school student it probably sounds pretty good. If you're the parent of a middle school student it probably sounds even better. For families looking for a safe, supervised and affordable alternative to the traditional latch-key conundrum, this is a program whose time has definitely come.
Actually, it's a program that has already arrived. It's the Oakley After-School Program, a city-sponsored, youth-oriented happening for students in grades six through eight.
Now in its eighth year, the program is in full swing four days a week at O'Hara Park and Delta Vista middle schools. Run by Oakley Parks and Recreation staff, the program provides students with a place to have fun, build relationships and social skills, and maybe get a little homework done as well.
According to past participant and new program leader Genesis Gonzales, the after-school program is simply a great place to be.
"I was only in sixth grade when this (after school program) started," said Gonzales, "but little by little it turned into a real program. Both my parents were working and this was a safe, supervised place for my sister and me to be. I'm very happy to be there for the kids now; to have the chance to give back."
With the emphasis on fun, fairness and basic life skills, the after-school program offers arts and crafts, indoor and outdoor games, sports and other activities, as well as movies and homework assistance. Snacks are sold daily, with the profits recycled for future snacks.
But while the program is easy, fun and relaxed, there are some definite rules.
"Yes, for sure, there are some guidelines the kids have to follow," said Recreation Leader Desiree Katrones, l9. "They have to sign in every day, and also sign a contract that says they are going to follow the rules regarding behavior and things. It's how we keep everything organized."
Through the support of the city, local and county organizations, as well as O'Hara Park and Delta Vista middle schools, which provide the classroom space, the After School Program has so far been able to keep its operating costs low and the program free.
Katrones' epiphanal moment occurred a few years ago when she spotted a couple of students - who seemed like they might be from different cliques and would never be caught together - sitting and talking at a local bus stop. Katrones believes that had they not experienced the After School Program, they might never have met, let alone become friends.
"When I saw those two at the bus stop, it was really a great moment for me," she said. "It really showed me how this program breaks down stereotypes and can bring together people who are from seemingly opposite ends of the spectrum socially, and form a friendship. If we can accomplish that … we're doing a good job."
For further information on the After School Program, call 625-7000 or the program hotline at 625-7044.