By Danielle Nason
The New Horizons After School Program in Troy is helping kids to learn as well as teaching them everyday skills and providing educational, safe, fun year-round. No matter the season, kids can sign up to participate and enjoy educational groups such as Archery, Airheads (aeronautics), Tae Kwon Do, Pinterest Crafts, Bookworm (book club), and many other clubs and groups. There is also a “Career Day” once a month where someone from the community comes to speak and educate the children on their area of expertise. October’s guest speaker was a National Guard Recruiter.
New Horizons Mission Statement is to provide a safe and healthy afterschool environment that strengthens academic achievement, encourages social and emotional well-being, and facilitates family and community involvement.
With so many activities going on at once, one might think that things may get a bit hectic. But the program is well organized and scheduled to accommodate a variety of things within a relatively short period of time. The order (schedule) of the day starts with of everyone sitting down to eat together, followed by half an hour of homework help for those who need it or learning on the Chrome Books for others. Once that is done, everyone gets a fifteen-minute recess to move around and get some air. Once they have returned, children have four activities to choose from on any given day.
“It’s really a great program, with excellent staff and a great variety of things to do. I am happy to be a part of it,” said Shawna Kelsey. “I was walking to school the other day with my (kid) and another boy around ten years old was excited because he got to go to the after school program. He was excited to be able to stay all the way to 5:45.”
The New Horizon After School Program is about more than just traditional learning, it’s also about giving back to one’s community. Last year, the program planted willow trees around Troy’s fishing pond located at Roosevelt Park. They also did a cleanup this summer around Alvord lake. But being in the outdoors is about more than just cleaning up for the lucky kids of this program. They are taught wildlife education as well as several other hands on outdoor activities year-round. For instance, the gardening program that Kelsey heads up in spring and fall, which is the perfect time to get their hands dirty.
“There’s a great activity that Kelsey does with the kids. They pick apples and press them into cider,” said program Directory, Jennifer Higgins.
In addition to giving back to the community and improving the surrounding area aesthetically, the program itself feeds all of the kids that attend. One child told The Montanian that she was glad to go to the program simply because she was fed there. As are most programs involving children, the New Horizon program is always in need of volunteers. If you have a passion for fun and creativity or learning and helping in any way, sign up to be a volunteer today.
“If there is anyone that wants to help or has some activity that brings them joy, I like to ask them, what do you enjoy doing? You can come and share one of those joys with the kids here by volunteering to do that activity with them,” said Higgins.
Due to federal grant cuts, 2018 was the first year that the program had to do fundraising to meet their financial needs. Even if you can’t volunteer your time, there is always the option of donating financially, or better yet, buying art.
On Thursday, Nov. 15 from 5:30 until 7 p.m., the school will host a “Fall Family Dinner” that is open to the public. The event will be a fundraiser for the New Horizons After School Program, and student artwork will be up for public sale. For more information, call Jennifer Higgins at 295-4321 ext. 337 or email jhiggins@ troyk12.org.
The Yaak Valley Forest Council joined Morrison Elementary After school Program in Troy to press fruitwith their students. Shawna Kelsey said, “We made the most delicious combination of juice from the grapes, pears and apples that we picked with the kids the week before. This yearly opportunity to work with youth to create something nutritious and tasty while helping to remove some of the bear attractant from our neighborhoods is rewarding in all the best ways.” Photo courtesy of Shawna Kelsey.