By Jeff Say
(Article also online at insidenova.com)
Without Kid Central’s afterschool program, many parents would be left in the dark.
Kid Central, Culpeper County Public Schools and Culpeper Wellness Foundation celebrated their partnership in offering after school opportunities to Culpeper youth with the “Lights On Afterschool” event Oct. 24.
Each elementary school in Culpeper, and a combined effort with Culpeper Middle School and Floyd T. Binns Middle School, hosts an afterschool program.
On Oct. 24, at Yowell Elementary, Rachel Palmer, Kid Central program manager, talked to key stakeholders about how important it is to engage students and help parents with the program – which accommodates more than 600 students.
“Parents needs to work and they need somewhere safe for their children to go after school,” Palmer said. “We all know kids go home unattended, teen pregnancy rates go up, crime goes up. It’s definitely important to have a safe place for the children to go where we can extend the learning from the school day.”
The Kid Central program offers homework help, STEM activities, arts and crafts, cooking and on Oct. 24 featured a fitness and nutrition-themed day with special guests from the Culpeper Sport and Fitness and the Culpeper Extension Office.
Palmer praised the work of the Culpeper Sport and Fitness employees – under the Culpeper Wellness Foundation umbrella – who teach pickleball, tennis and zumba to students weekly.
“They’ve been hugely helpful, our kids go to our gym every week and their instructors come to us every week,” Palmer said.
On Oct. 24, zumba instructor Kaori Rudacille had a group of nearly 25 students dancing in the Yowell Elementary School gym, getting exercise while having a good time.
“Our partnership with Kid Central has been a real highlight of our work,” Culpeper Wellness Foundation President Shari Landry said. “Together we’ve been able to introduce hundreds of kids to tennis, yoga and the benefits of physical exercise. Active kids are healthier kids – mentally and physically. It is our hope that they will enjoy the experience and continue to pursue opportunities to be active and try new things.”
Culpeper Sport and Fitness manager Preston Will said it’s important to engage with students.
“For me, being a local, it’s great to keep these kids busy and active,” Will said. “Exercise is always good and if we can get that ingrained in the kids at an early age, they can keep that going later in life.”
While he rattled off pickleball, yoga and tennis as offerings, he admitted that most kids seem to really enjoy zumba.
Russell Houck, Executive Director of Student Services Culpeper County Public Schools, praised Kid Central for hosting the program for 30 years now.
“Having been an elementary principal, knowing our kids had a safe place to go that reinforces the same things we’re trying to reinforce like getting homework done, health and wellness, it’s a great program,” Houck said. “I don’t know how our community would survive without it.”