Thursday, September 17, 2015

Tuesday Middle School After-School Program Emphasizes Community

Ted Packard is the after-school program facilitator.
With the beginning of fall comes a free after-school program at Vashon United Methodist Church for junior high students that will be non-religious in nature and include a variety of activities. The program will be facilitated by Ted Packard, who is an experienced wilderness school youth instructor and holds a Master of Education degree.

“I am interested in working with youth and families to create a vision together for this program,” says Ted. “My experience is in creating a structure where groups of kids can gel together and learn how to work together.”

Ted grew up in Virginia and after earning a Bachelor’s degree in History and a Master’s degree in Education, spent two years travelling the East Coast playing music and facilitating community development. In 2011, he moved to Washington and completed a 9-month naturalist and wilderness survival training at Alderleaf Wilderness College. During that time he started mentoring youth in nature connection and personal growth.  He has worked with Wilderness Awareness School and currently works year round at Vashon Wilderness Program and Quiet Heart Wilderness School. At Quiet Heart, he is still working with the same cohort of students, now teens, that he started with 4 years ago.  He is passionate about the sharing of stories, music, art, filmography, games, basket making, primitive skills for foraging & hunting, and most importantly, feeding the passion in others.

The after-school program comes out of a shared recognition on the part of concerned community leaders that the island needs more programs for youth. Organizer Carol Butler hopes to create a network of alliances throughout the island to give more support for teens. “I was raised as a latchkey kid,” she explains. “But I had caring neighbors. We had a community of concern. Kids need to be able to feel safe in fun activities with peers, friends, and future friends."

“Youth is a very exciting time and a great time to discover potential,” says one of the organizers, Nancy Vanderpool, who is also active with VARSA and the Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness. “This program is a way to open new paths to do that in a safe and caring environment.”

Program activities are designed to be fun -- with games, projects, and kinesthetic activies -- while offering new experiences and opportunities for enriching friendships. The program is based in the Education Building of the Methodist church, but will be non-religious. "We want to serve our community,” says the Reverend Kathy Morse, the church’s pastor. "Our parents suggested that our youth need a safe place to connect and that is what we hope to provide. The impetus comes from our call to love and serve our neighbors, but the program itself will not be religious is nature. We want middle school youth to have fun with their friends and maybe learn some new skills.”

The program starts Tuesdays in October at 3:15 when kids get dropped off by the bus and goes to 6:00 p.m. Snacks are provided. The program is offered at no cost and is held in the Education Building of Vashon United Methodist Church at 17928 Vashon Hwy SW. Students must register online.... 

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