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After School Success For El Portal Kids
Where can you go to A) get homework help, B) focus on physical fitness and, C) do plenty of fun activities? The answer is clear: El Portal Middle School's After School Program.

Offered free of charge to all middle school students, the program runs Monday through Friday from after school until 6 p.m., including minimum days. The program is run by Give Every Child a Chance, a non-profit organization out of Manteca that works cooperatively with San Joaquin County to put on the program.

"We have homework assistance for the first full hour," explained El Portal site manager Desiree Tafolla. "In physical education, we have different activities, from team sports to crazy games the kids come up with and for enrichment, we do a lot of things, we get input from the kids on activities they'd like to do."

Their special enrichment activity on Thursday, March 20 was setting off rockets, powered by soda and Mentos candy, seeing how the interaction of the candy with the carbonated beverage created pressure to send the rocket skyward.

In terms of rocket launches, there wasn't that much success ... most only went a few feet, but there was plenty of spewing soda and fun.

"There's no requirements to get into the program." Tafolla added. "We're not a babysitter, though, we actually have exciting stuff for the kids to take part in."

Program director Oscar Munguia said Give Every Child a Chance has been in effect in San Joaquin County for the past 11 years and has been offering the after school program at El Portal for the last three. He wants to see more students taken advantage of it because of the benefits it provides.

"Originally we started off with some tutoring," he said of the organization's early years. "Then, with state grants, we branched out to the after school program."

Several are offered throughout the county, from sites in Stockton to Lathrop to French Camp, in addition to Escalon.

"We want to be able to recruit more kids," Munguia said. "It's absolutely free, parents don't pay anything and kids get help with homework, enrichment programs and physical fitness."