Local News

Wednesday, May 24 2006 12:34 AM

City programs promise fun summer for children

BY LOUIS MEDINA, Californian staff writere-mail: lmedina@bakersfield.com

Bertha Flores has been sending her children to the Sheriff's Activities League's after-school program.

This summer, she plans to send Alondra, 9, and Luis, 8, to its Beat the Heat summer day camp, too.

"The most important reason I want to send my kids there is so they'll have things to do and good things to learn instead of learning bad things on television," the east Bakersfield mother said. "Also, they won't be on the computer or eating all day."

As the school year ends, working parents may be seeking ways to keep their children happy and out of trouble throughout the summer.

There are lots of affordable and safe summer options for children in east Bakersfield, and some even include free lunch through a partnership with the Bakersfield City School District's Department of Food Services.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County, the Bakersfield Police Activities League, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center and Park, and the Sheriff's Activities League at the East Bakersfield Community Resource Center are just a few options. There's summer school, too.

One new option is a full-time summer program through the Sheriff's Activities League in collaboration with the Boys and Girls Club and BCSD. The program will be open to about 100 children ages 8 to 18, said program director Renee Stancil.

Sending kids to summer school is another way to ensure they're supervised while they learn. But besides providing a scholastic opportunity, "Summer school is part of the infrastructure that makes it possible for kids to get meals," said Wayne Wong, BCSD Director of Food Services.

Free breakfast and lunch are distributed to all children 18 and under, regardless of enrollment, through BCSD schools that offer summer school, according to the BCSD Department of Food Services. Approved community sites, as well as other schools not open for summer school but designated as eating sites, offer lunch.

"If you physically live close to a summer school, you can get a meal there even if you don't attend," Wong said. "This is good for the families, because nonstudents are able to participate."

In some schools, Wong said, the summer food service program continues for a few weeks beyond the end of summer school, depending on demand.

Besides proper nutrition, drug prevention is another concern for some parents.

Scott Huhn, executive director and founder of Villages of Vision, a teen substance abuse and prevention program, said kids are more at risk for experimenting with drugs or alcohol during summer.

"They have more free time on their hands. A lot of alone time," Huhn said.

Huhn said prevention programs like the one he offers third- to eighth-graders teach kids so that when they become teens they will not want to use drugs.

Villages of Vision has one such program at the Boys & Girls Club of Kern County headquarters on Niles and King streets.

"We have never turned anyone away for their inability to pay," said Barry Hill, assistant executive director of the Boys & Girls Club.

Hill said the weekly fee for the club's summer program, which also offers sports, computer labs, arts and crafts and other activities, is $80, but about 95 percent of children receive full scholarships or reduced rates.

Children 5 to 17 can participate, and those who have turned 18 can apply to volunteer.

Besides the programs at the main Niles Street branch this summer, Boys & Girls Clubs will also offer services at several sites in and around Bakersfield.

"We are hoping to see at least 800 kids this summer," Hill said.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center and Park, at South Owens Street and East California Avenue, offers a variety of activities.

"Camp King," a half-day camp for 6- to 12-year-olds, is one of the highlights. The fee of $30 for seven weeks does not usually pose a great financial burden to families, said Dean Jones, a supervisor with the City of Bakersfield Recreation and Parks Department. Jones said up to 100 kids participate in the camp on a first-come, first-served basis.

This summer, MLK pool is offering the city's Jr. Lifeguard Program free for the first time. Up to 48 teens ages 12 to 15 can learn aquatic rescue techniques, CPR, first aid and other skills, said Dawn Loveless, program coordinator of aquatics for the Recreation and Parks Department.

The city starts hiring lifeguards at age 16, Loveless said, so she hopes the 15-year-olds who pass the program this year will be eligible to apply for jobs next summer.

"Not only are we teaching these kids lifesaving skills, but we're able to possibly build a pool of future lifeguards for ourselves, especially from that community," she said.

The Bakersfield Police Activities League serves about 300 8- to 17-year-olds per week throughout the summer out of a total enrollment of about 900, said Ken Miller, grant writer and program coordinator.

PAL's site on Fourth Street includes soccer and baseball fields, a gym, a weight room and boxing facilities. There is also an arts and crafts room, a classroom for tutoring and a large game room.

"We're open to anyone who can get here," Miller said. He does not turn away children and youths from the surrounding areas because "we think they're all at risk."

Miller said many people misunderstand PAL's mission and think it is only a place for troubled youths. In reality, he said, children who want to attend PAL have to be in good standing with their school and cannot be expelled.

Miller considers his job a sort of "ministry" because it involves serving kids. "Our Lord said, 'Suffer the little children,'" he said. "All of us had some kind of help growing up."

Summer Options

Boys & Girls Club of Kern County (headquarters) 801 Niles St. Bakersfield, CA 93305 325-3730

Summer Program Dates: June 5 to Aug. 18

Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Ages: 5 to 17 (18-year-olds who have been enrolled can apply to volunteer)

What: Sports, arts and crafts, dance, tutoring, games, computer workshops, photography, field trips, substance abuse prevention education and other activities.

Cost: $80 per week, but based on need, fees may be reduced or scholarships offered.

Free lunch program: Yes, to all children 18 and under from the community, regardless of enrollment. Closely follows schedule for BCSD summer school lunch program.

Sheriff’s Activities League at East Bakersfield Community Resource Center 1700 Flower St. Bakersfield, CA 93305 631-5877

“Beat the Heat”

Summer Day Camp

Dates: June 5 to Aug. 18

Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Ages: 8 to 18

What: Arts and crafts, athletics, cooking, dance, fitness and nutrition, computer lab, field trips and other activities. Cost: Free

Free lunch program: Open to enrolled children only. Closely follows schedule for BCSD summer school lunch program.

Bakersfield Police Activities League 301 E. Fourth St. Bakersfield, CA 93307 283-8880

Summer Day Camp

Dates: June 12 to Aug. 18

Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Ages: 8 to 17

What: Arts and crafts, game room, computers, baseball, basketball, soccer, boxing, tutoring help, field trips and other activities.

Cost: Free

Free lunch program: Open to enrolled children only. Closely follows schedule for BCSD summer school lunch program.

Dr. Martin Luther King Center and Park 1000 S. Owens St. Bakersfield, CA 93307 322-9874

Camp King

Dates: June 12 to July 28

Hours: 9 a.m. to noon

Ages: 6 to 12

What: Arts and crafts, storytelling, sports, special events, games, swimming, and other activities.

Cost: $30

Aquatics Programs, including recreational swimming, swimming lessons, and Jr. Lifeguard Program

Dates: June 12 to Aug. 13

Hours: Inquire at office phone number above between 8 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, as schedules vary depending on the activity.

Ages: All ages, but children under 7 must be accompanied by an adult. However, Jr. Lifeguard Program is limited to youths 12 to 15.

What: Recreational swimming, swimming lessons, training and Jr. Lifeguard Program.

Cost: Jr. Lifeguard Program: Free, but participants must apply and space is limited.

General use of pool: Daily use of the pool is $2, but a reduced fee of $1 or a waived fee is possible for qualifying families who apply for a HUD Discount Pass. Inquire at the MLK Center office.

Free lunch program: Yes to all children 18 and under from the community, regardless of enrollment. Closely follows schedule for BCSD summer school lunch program.

Villages of Vision 2104 18th St. Bakersfield, CA 93301 335-0363

Teen Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment

Dates: Ongoing

Hours and costs: Inquire by calling Villages of Vision

What: Teen substance abuse prevention (sometimes in collaboration with other organizations) and treatment.

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