By Loretta Tappan
The Grant County Family YMCA will begin accepting applications on June 27th for the Giant Discovery Zone, an enhanced after-school program with Marion Community Schools that will incorporate community leaders and organizations in academics, athletics, the arts, and child care to help up to 200 children discover their talents, interests, and passions.
During the school year, children enrolled in the program will meet after school Monday through Friday from 3:30 pm – 5 pm at Kendall Elementary School, 2009 W Kem Road, Marion, and will be greeted by the YMCA Live Wire’s child care team. The students will get a snack and receive homework assistance and mentoring by Indiana Wesleyan University students. Then, each week for 32 weeks, the children will be introduced to a new activity by a local specialist in the field.
“When the passport was created, that was the 1,000 things to do before you graduate, and those were all based on the 40 Developmental Assets from the Search Institute,” said Dawn Brown, executive director of The Community Foundation, which is helping to fund the program, “They are 40 things that every kid should be exposed to while they are a kid so that they can be productive, active members of society later. Those are all great, but the keystone to all of those is to be doing those things with caring adults, so when you put these teenagers and young adults, whether they be basketball players or cooks or whatever they might be doing, it puts them in that position where they become that active caring adult to a third or fourth grader, which is really empowering.”
The program offers a variety of things to help children discover what they like without having to pay to play and will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration opens first for fourth-grade students. On August 22, if there is still space available, third-grade students will be permitted to apply.
“The Y has partnered with Marion Community Schools for 20 years in a state-licensed after-school child care program,” said Kyle Strohman, executive director at the Grant County Family YMCA, “Since its inception, it has moved from a safe place for kids to be to a place they could receive homework help and nutrition, and now into showing children the vast world that is out there and helping them see and find what I always refer to as their ‘spark.’ Because they have to know purpose. They have to know that their gifts matter, and that is what Giant Discovery Zone is intended to instill into our fourth graders. They are going to fall in love with something that is going to inspire them, connect them more to their schools, connect them to their education.”
“They discover things they wouldn’t have before and then,” said Brown, “as we know what they love or what they’re good at we can feed them into these other systems in the community that can do some deeper instruction and take them to a more advanced level in something that they realize they already like.”
The program’s partners include the Moorehead Family Foundation, the Community Foundation of Grant County, Marion Community Schools, the Marion High School Alumni Association, and the State of Indiana.
“The Community Foundation of Grant County gave us (Marion Community Schools) $21,000 and the Moorehead Family Foundation gave us $50,000, so we have $71,000 to do this Giant Discovery Zone program,” said Mark Fauser, creative development consultant at Marion Community Schools.
Additional partnerships were needed from the community in order to provide the 32 different activities. Those partnerships include, Grant County Family YMCA, Indiana Wesleyan University, Boys and Girls Club of Grant County, Marion Giants 2016 Basketball Champions, Signature Dance, Marion Giant Baseball team, IWU Choral, Marion Police Department, Marion Giant Golf team, Marion Giant Art Department, Marion PAL Judo Club, Marion Giant Speech and Drama Association, Marion Giant Boys and Girls Cross Country team, Marion Giant Cheerleaders, 26th Street Innovations, Marion Boys Giant Soccer team, Playhouse Studio of Dance, Marion Giant Boys and Girls Tennis team, Marion Giant Football team, Marion Giant Band Program, Marion Giant Volleyball team, Tiger Martial Arts, The Wellness Center, Marion Track and Field team, Eric Reaves, Marion Giant Girls Basketball, Marion Giant JROTC, and Community School of the Arts.
“As a parent, I want my kids to be as active as humanly possible. I want to find out what they like,” said Fauser, “As parents, I think we are pretty active, but we are only human. We can only do so much for our kids. Many of these programs want you to sign up for a year. We are asking – why don’t we discover if they like it first? What if they don’t even know about that organization or that activity, and we introduce them to it? Then we can guide them to those activities they love. It’s a reciprocal partnership for many of the businesses locally, and not-for-profits, to showcase what everybody offers.”
The Giant Discovery Zone is run through the Marion Community Schools Alumni Association, a 501(c)3 organization. All donations to the program are tax-deductible.
“We are going to continue to look for donations because the supply fee is going to be high to equip that many kids and maintain the equipment–tennis rackets, musical instruments, golf clubs, paint brushes, paint, etc.,” said Fauser.
Contact Mark Fauser at Marion Community Schools to make a donation or learn more, 765-662-2546 or email Brenda McVicker, firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Loretta Tappan