A few years ago most of the youngsters making gingerbread men in a portable classroom at the Nile Garden campus after school would have been dubbed “latchkey” kids.
They would have been unsupervised at home while their parents worked. If they stayed out of mischief they likely would be playing video games or watching TV.
Today there are 1,536 students in Manteca, Lathrop, Weston Ranch, Escalon, Banta, and Ripon participating in the free After School Advantage Program operated by Give Every Child a Chance. It is one of three education programs the community-based, no-charge tutoring organization offers. The others are group homework assistance programs and one-on-one tutoring/mentoring.
The ASAP program launched in February 2003 does more than provide a safe haven for kids from the last school bell of the day until 6 p.m. whether it is a full-day of instruction or a minimum day. It offers homework assistance/support, enrichment activities, and recreation/physical education. They are structured to be both fun and safe. Activities can include arts and crafts, games, field trips, holiday projects, guest speakers/instructors, drama productions, and movies.
The Nile Garden ASAP program utilizes three side-by-side portable classrooms. One day prior to the Christmas break, one room was filled with students doing the gingerbread man art project, in another they were playing indoor bowling, and in the other students were busy completing their homework assignments.
Some of the students are in the Food for Thought program where they earn groceries to help feed their families by completing their assignments. The food is provided by the Second Harvest Food Bank.
“It (the food) is a big deal for some families,” noted Oscar Munguia who serves as the ASAP program director for Give Every Child a Chance. “They count on it to have enough to eat.”
The enrichment program also plays a key role in helping youngsters explore art, crafts, and other things that once were part of the school curriculum. Continued budget cutbacks have squeezed out many enrichment programs in schools.
The recreation/physical education component is designed to develop lifelong exercise habits coupled with good nutrition. The program even provides healthy snacks such as apples.
Federal grants fund the ASAP programs. Enrollment in the free program is on a first-come, first served basis.
Give Every Child a Chance was started in 1998 with a single tutoring site and 13 tutors through the efforts of the late Antone Raymus who provided $300,000 in seed money.
Today, the Manteca-based GECAC serves more than 3,000 students a year in Manteca, Ripon, Escalon, Lathrop, Weston Ranch and Banta.
There are also independent GECAC expansion programs in Tracy, Tuolumne County and Merced.