Story and photos
by Leah Weissman
Pilot staff writer
"Ewwww" said Haileigh Strain as she dunked her hands in a pan of green fingerpaint. Little rivers of bright green rolled down her arms as she held up her hands to inspect her goo-covered fingers.
"Now why don't you put your hands on the paper?" instructor Mandy Morris said as she directed Haileigh's hands to a 3-by-4-foot sheet of white paper laying on the ground.
A minute later, the empty canvass was covered with green, pink and blue handprints, and Haileigh was covered with paint.
"This is fun!" she exclaimed.
Fingerpainting is just one of more than 70 classes and workshops taught by volunteers during the Kids After School Program of Education and Recreation (KASPER). The eight-week, nonprofit program started June 23 at Kalmiopsis Elementary School and is run by a 20-person board of dedicated residents, city officials and educational leaders.
The program was spearheaded by Carolyn Milliman, wife of City Manager Gary Milliman, when the city cancelled its summer recreation program last year when it was unable to find someone to be a program coordinator.
"There are a lot of children in this community that need this," Milliman said.
As of Monday, more than 80 children kindergarten through sixth grade have signed up for a variety of classes from music to art, language, sports, knitting, theater, dancing and gardening.
KASPER student Alex Cowan said he enjoys all of the classes he's taking, from sewing to sign language. But, he said, playing the drums and guitar in rhythm and music class is his favorite thing to do.
"At first my dad told me about KASPER, and my first day here I had the music class. I just wanted to come more and more," Alex said.
According to Program Director Alicia Lunde, the point of KASPER is to offer an affordable summer program that provides Brookings-Harbor youth an organized, educational and fun experience in a safe environment.
"This is not babysitting this is a fun, learning environment," Lunde said.
After eight months of planning, coordinating and searching for funding, Milliman said the program has been a great success with six more weeks left to go.
"Parents have stopped me and said this is the best thing that has happened in Brookings as far as a summer program," Milliman said Monday. "And after only six days, (the program) is getting stronger rather than weaker."
Residents throughout the community have shown their support for KASPER by volunteering to teach classes or assist supervisors, organize children or hand out snacks.
More than eight teachers and 10 volunteers help with the program each day. According to Lunde, local businesses such as Sterling Savings Bank, Washington Mutual and Umpqua Bank have pitched in by volunteering some of their employees to help out the first week, C&K Markets donated snacks, and Chetco Federal Credit Union is teaching a "dollar and cents" class.
"It's been amazing," Lunde said."And we have such wonderful teachers providing excellent lessons and activities."
Out of the 70-some KASPER classes, many revolve around creativity and arts and crafts.
Rashon Barney, another KASPER student, said he can't get enough of his art classes.
"I've drawn, painted and sketched my whole life," Rashon said. "It's my favorite hobby. If I wasn't here, I'd be home drawing."
But, Rashon said, "I'd rather be here because the classes have a lot more utensils, art stuff and paints."
Lunde said she's received a lot of positive comments from parents whose children are in the program.
"I've run into several parents this week, who have all said their kids are loving the variety of classes we offer," Lunde said. "They wake up excited for KASPER."
Milliman said she's never heard a child ask, "Do we have to do that?" during a KASPER workshop.
"The children are satisfied and enjoying everything," she said.
The board of citizens heading KASPER includes Chairperson Carolyn Milliman, Oregon State University Master Gardener Program Assistant Shelley Palmer, City of Brookings Financial Director Patti Dunn, Kalmiopsis Elementary School Principal Brian Hodge, Brookings Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Tony Parrish and a multitude of others.
"The KASPER program was started by a group of dedicated volunteers and board members that really want to make a difference in the lives of the youth in our community," Lunde stressed.
With the first two weeks already over, Lunde said KASPER is still looking for volunteers to help over the next few weeks.
"Our volunteers are dwindling ... so anyone interested in helping we could use you," she said.