Giving Kids the Opportunity to be Kids

Most of us have those early childhood memories of waking early for school and wanting nothing more than to sleep for five more minutes. Some of us may have had to take the bus while others had someone drop us off. Those years were easy. It was a time when you could be carefree and adventurous, a time where your primary job was to be a good student and kid. This isn’t always the case for many of the kids who attend Dimmitt Middle School, located in unincorporated Bryn Mawr-Skyway, Washington, right between Renton and Seattle. In this minority-majority community with limited resources, many kids do laundry, get their siblings ready for school, cook, clean and more all before the school day starts. These children are no strangers to responsibility, but like any kid growing up, some fun is warranted.

For families that give it their all every day and work hard to provide their kids with enriching opportunities they themselves didn’t have growing up, the time after school is often left in question. After-School All-Stars (ASAS) Puget Sound fills a void in the lack of resources for youth and their families by offering a safe, productive space during the critical hours directly after school. With programs like DJ/music production, cooking, sports, dance and more, students at Dimmit Middle School get to take a moment to be themselves, be kids, and learn something new.

So was the case with a group of middle school boys, notorious for getting themselves into trouble. These boys soon found themselves engaged through ASAS’s Sports as a Hook initiative, where they got to channel their energy into sports. After being in the program for about a year, the school saw a change in their behavior as they demonstrated increased attention and engagement. Through their involvement in ASAS’s sports program, these boys were able to apply their practiced teamwork skills and discipline in the classroom.

ASAS Puget Sound has also been serving students at Meeker Middle School since Fall 2016. Located in Renton and surrounded by diverse communities, students of Meeker Middle School have a variety of interests and passions that ASAS Puget Sound loves to nurture during the hours after school. For instance, ASAS’s hands-on cooking program encourages every student to try different foods from around the world and share new recipes with their families at home. For students more interested in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math), ASAS’s DJ/music production program provides them with an opportunity to learn music theory and gain self-esteem through performance and collaboration. Enrichment courses like these allow students at Meeker to find and exercise their passions. For Malia, this includes social justice and service-learning. As a National Youth Advisory Board member and driven leader, Malia rallied her fellow peers in ASAS’s Community Leaders program to join her in a fight to address the Flint water crisis. These students partnered with the cooking program to organize a bake sale, which raised funds to support children affected by the water crisis. Malia ensured the funds were donated in time for the Community Foundation of Greater Flint to secure a match. Her grassroots activism is indicative of the spirit and drive needed to make a positive impact.