Boys and Girls Club opens two new branches at Morgantown, McLaurin schools

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 17, 2004

Patrice Williams was sitting at the girls only table with new friends. She goes to school with the three other girls at the table every day, but they aren’t all in the same class. That’s why 3:15 is so special.

Once school dismisses the girls, and just under 90 other children, head downstairs to the cafeteria for Boys and Girls Club.

After only four days in the new branch of the club at McLaurin, most of the kids have new friends, new teachers and a new routine.

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&uot;You get to learn new things, meet new people and have new friends,&uot; Williams said from the girls only table. &uot;At home you don’t get to do that.&uot;

The Boys and Girls Club of the Miss-Lou opened its doors at two new branches exactly a week ago, and so far things are going smoothly, director Matilda Stephens said.

&uot;We’ve been bombarded with requests to get kids in the program,&uot; Stephens said. &uot;As word gets out I think we’ll have 125 every day at Morgantown. And that says what a huge need we have.&uot;

The turnout most days last week at McLaurin was 87 children, 60 at Morgantown. Applications were still pouring in Friday and Stephens said she was sure the McLaurin number would reach 100.

The two new branches of the club, on top of the existing one at the Thompson School, were made possible by a $371,237 grant.

The money is divided between the three sites and over three years and goes to fund the salaries of workers.

The expanded staff at each school includes teachers who spend their whole day at the school in classrooms and then go to work for the Boys and Girls Club at 3 p.m.

&uot;It’s been really inspiring to see the teachers’ attitudes about doing this,&uot; Stephens said. &uot;They say this gives them an additional opportunity, more time to work one-on-one with the kids that they see having trouble during the day.&uot;

McLaurin unit director Angelita Jones is a teacher assistant in the school during school hours and works to coordinate the club after school.

&uot;I know there are children in this building that need my help,&uot; she said.

&uot;There is nothing I love more than seeing a child learn. Nothing makes my day like seeing that.&uot;

The children start off their Boys and Girls Club afternoon, which runs from 3 to 6, with a snack and homework time. Tutors are available to those who need extra help. The grades are then divided for a special class, art, music or dance, depending on the week, and fitness. Those who still need homework help stay in the cafeteria.

The motivation of playtime is something that drives most of the students, Jones said.

&uot;If we finish our homework we get to go to the gym,&uot; sixth-grader Patrick Harris said. &uot;I always finish. It’s nice to have someone helping with homework.&uot;

Kimberly Jones, 9, and LaNeshia Edwards, 9, said they liked staying in the building after school.

&uot;It’s fun,&uot; Edwards said. &uot;You get to learn and do fun things and go outside and do art and PE and music.&uot;

&uot;It’s more fun than school,&uot; Kimberly Jones said. &uot;And home is boring.&uot;

The students, who attend free of charge if they receive reduced lunches, must be picked up by 6 p.m.

In case the number of students in the programs keeps growing, the club is working toward additional funding to hire more workers, Stephens said. No child can be turned away.

Volunteers are needed at all three clubs to help with the programs.

The club will hold special celebrations Thursday to kickoff the new year. At 4:30 there will be a ribbon cutting at McLaurin, and at 5:15 at Morgantown. Activities will also take place at the Thompson unit starting at 4:30.