Washburn Law starts program for elementary students

Brenda Snyder

Students at Meadows Elementary enjoy their new after school program that encourages good study habits, provides physical exercise and exposes them to various hands-on activities.

GoZone, an acronym for Good Options, Great Opportunity in your Zone (neighborhood), was organized by Latina Alston, a Washburn law student, in October. It allows students to participate in hands on activities in art, cooking projects, music classes and to hear special speakers.

Alston currently oversees the program which includes 10 adult volunteers, who are mainly from the Westside Baptist Church and the Foster Grandparents organization. A few Washburn law students also volunteer.

Alston is involved in Americorps, a federal program at Washburn that gives students the opportunity to work at bettering their community.

Rick Ellis, the faculty sponsor for Learning in the Community which houses Bonner Leader Americorps’ members, approved Alston’s idea for GoZone.

Alston says she got her idea for GoZone from working in an after school program at her daughter’s school. She noticed the majority of students in the class did not complete or return their homework assignments, and it concerned her.

Alston met with Kathy Kesner, principal of Meadows Elementary, and shared her idea about an after school program. She then contacted Westside Baptist Church, 1008 SW 4th Street, which was located less than a block from the school. She was offered the use of the facility free of charge.

Alston and another volunteer pick up the 29 kindergarten through fifth-graders who are enrolled in the program every day after school. After lining up the students, they begin their short walk to the church, where, for the next two hours, they will engage in structured activities.

“Upon arriving at the church, one of the first things we do is give the children snacks. Then our volunteers assist the younger ones who have homework, usually the second and third-graders. The kindergartners and first-graders are read to or kept busy with worksheets during this time. Since the fourth and fifth-graders typically do not have homework, they are given the options to read, help others with homework, or to do worksheets,” said Alston.

Although no official studies from the program have been conducted, positive comments have come from the school’s administration.

“This program has been a great thing for our school. I am very pleased and very impressed with Latina. She has followed through on everything she said she would do,” said Kesner.

GoZone receives few donations from different individuals and Westside Baptist Church members. Currently they do not have any funding, but Alston is hoping all that will change in January when she begins to work on the matter.

In addition to the financial needs, Alston says she is also in need of younger volunteers. Some of her older volunteers find it difficult to make the trips up and down the stairs and participate in the gymnasium activities with the children. She said college students make great volunteers because of their endless energy and positive role models.

If interested in volunteering, students may contact Alston at 817-1643 or [email protected]