By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
After School Program Gives Kids A Chance
Working together on a Knex building challenge on Thursday, sixth graders, from left, Taylor Ewing, Andrea Sanchez, Cadence Eckhardt and seventh grader Priya Summer Stine, at right, develop a strategy for their racing vehicle. Marg Jackson/The Times

Based on the Give Every Child A Chance model, the after school program operating on the campus at El Portal Middle School offers homework help, snacks, enrichment, sports and plenty of fun.

It has been going strong for several years, under the umbrella of the Manteca based Give Every Child A Chance organization, and has a manager and several site coordinators that work with the students each day.

“Right now we have about 65 students enrolled,” said Escalon site academic manager Shawndra Kuffel.

The program runs Monday through Friday, starting right after the school day (regular and minimum days) ends and continuing through 6 p.m.

It is a free program for participants and is open to all grade levels, sixth through eighth.

“I would say the bulk this year has been sixth grade,” Kuffel said of student participants. “The way we work, the kids come in, have snack and a break, then we go into a homework session, it’s a structured session with assistance.”

After spending some time with the books, students have their choice of activity, whether it’s going outside to participate in a sport, or take part in another enrichment class such as arts and crafts or science.

“We offer a lot of club type activities, a little bit of everything,” Kuffel said.

There are also special programs from time to time, such as the Folklorico dancers that came to entertain recently.

Along with Kuffel, staff members this year at the El Portal after school program are site coordinators Nancy Rosas and Berenice Guzman. Substitutes are currently filling a third site coordinator slot.

Three Escalon High School students also volunteer and Kuffel said she is especially pleased and proud about that, since all three participated in the program when they attended El Portal. Sophomore Alexander Garza, one of the EHS student volunteers, said he feels good about giving back.

“I usually come every day,” he said. “I wanted to be helpful.”

Additional volunteer mentors also come in from time to time.

“We would like them to be here as consistently as possible,” Kuffel said of students getting the most out of the opportunity. “What we ask is that they are here four days a week.”

The Give Every Child A Chance organization is based out of Manteca and has school site programs in areas including Manteca, Lathrop, Weston Ranch, Ripon and Banta, in addition to Escalon.

Each site has its own staff and while they all have the same basic structure and focus on STEAM – Science, Technology. Engineering, Art and Math – for their core activities, each site also plans its own calendar.

“We also have to align with common core and state standards,” Kuffel said of structuring the program to help meet educational needs. “But each site is individual; each is able to play to the strengths and needs of their site. Some sites do gardening, because they have room for it. This year we have done more dance programs because I have a site coordinator that also teaches dance.”

For the students attending on a regular basis, they definitely enjoy the help with homework, the snack and time to have fun.

“I probably like the games the best,” said sixth grader Molly Bergen, who was also taking time on a recent afternoon to get some math homework completed.

In her first year at El Portal, she said she likely will attend the after school program again next year.

“I like the help that we get and the fun activities,” said eighth grader Trenton Nascimento, who is back for a second year.

“We can do activities, get snacks and help with homework,” sixth grader Elizabeth Leal rattled off about her favorite aspects of the program.

Brayan Vargas, looking forward to eighth grade graduation this year, said he is grateful for the help with homework, working on his math problems recently.

Kuffel has been at the El Portal site for six years and said she still enjoys the work and the atmosphere.

“What I get out of it the most is working with the kids, those who come in with a need, maybe they are struggling in a class and need homework help, we guide them in a direction that is more positive in school,” Kuffel said. “I also enjoy the enrichment portion, seeing them try new things they haven’t had the opportunity to do before.

“Also just the day to day interaction, they are really becoming their own people, finding their way and it’s fun to see that.”