Jayati Ramakrishnan

Many kids and teens are in a quandary once the school day is over. They have trouble finding interesting things to do, but the Azalea Middle School staff hopes to change that with a new after-school program.

“With a district our size, getting opportunities for our students can be challenging,” Vice Principal Sean O’Malley said. “We feel like we’re coming closer to providing those opportunities with our after-school model.”

O’Malley said the program will provide activities for students, promote academic assistance and offer emotional and behavioral support.

The extracurricular classes and clubs will be led by volunteers, and open to all students. With the help of instructional assistants at the middle school, the program will offer academic support as well.

“One of the things we hear from parents is they can’t help their kids with homework, so we look to provide that assistance,” O’Malley said. That service will be open to all students.

“This will be for all students — it’s not just a remedial program,” O’Malley said.

“It will benefit a lot of students often left home alone after school. We need to keep students engaged and make sure they have positive, intellectually stimulating programs.”

O’Malley said the school also hopes to partner with Curry Community Health and the Curry County Juvenile Department to offer emotional and behavioral support for students who need it.

“Many kids are going through a tough time, especially at the middle school level,” he said.

Activities offered will depend on the skills and abilities of volunteers, O’Malley said.

“We’re flexible on what we’ll offer,” he said. “We identified some ideas (of what kids are interested in) on a survey, but if there are things the community wants that I’m not tuned into, maybe there’s something we can get going.”

For example, O’Malley said a student emailed him saying she was interested in having a book club at the school.

“It hadn’t crossed my mind that’s something middle schoolers would be interested in,” he said. “But now we may be looking for a volunteer to do some book clubs.”

Some of the other programs students expressed interest in are baking, intramural sports, art and Lego robotics.

O’Malley said he hopes the program will be in place by October of this school year. It will likely run three days a week — Tuesday through Thursday.

He said the program will rely heavily on volunteers.

“We’re working on building a volunteer group, and looking at grants, which will impact what programs we can do,” he said. He added that while the budget won’t be very large, there may be some small expenses at first.

“We’re really trying to avoid charging for the program,” he said. “Some things, like materials and supplies, will cost money, but we’re trying to find funding for those things.”

Anyone interested in volunteering or learning more about the program can contact O’Malley by calling Azalea Middle School at 541-469-7427, or stop in the school, at 505 Pacific Ave., Brookings.

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