PROTESTERS RALLY TO KEEP AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAM ALIVE
Keep the doors open. You can’t put a price on love. That was the predominant theme of the evening, at least the one expressed by the community at the specially-held City Council Meeting at 555 Walnut on March 21 at 5:30 pm. The chief purpose was to discuss whether to keep or cut the “Abilene After School Program”, an operation that has made the lives of parents with chidren in the Abilene ISD easier for over a decade. [[more]] Director of Community Services, Leslie Andrews, opened the event with a brief overview of the After School Program, its history, and its effects on the budget. Though the committee itself seemed to be interested in this information, it did little to quell the feeling of disappointment and aggravation inside the room. Parents, teachers, pastors, volunteers, and concerned citizens of Abilene took the time to attend this meeting as well as previous junctions on this same topic in the hopes of voicing, yet again their strong support for what’s grown to become a community staple for kids after the last bell rings. “Go and visit the center, see what goes on, see what it means to these kids,” said one of the citizens in asserting the impact of the program to board members. The city is discussing a few different proposals, shutting it down completely, is not, they claim, one of them. However, changing locations and putting it under the administration of the AISD and/or The Boys and Girls Club, as well as considerably increasing the cost of the programs are some of the topics on the table. These types of changes will be to the detriment of the parents, children, and the community as a whole, this is the dillema with which the board is faced with. The majority of citizens believe that the locations, the fact that it is a separate entity from the school and the programs affordability are the very characteristics that make it so vital to the community in which they exist. Changing these characteristics would diminish the positive effect of the programs. The after school program provides a safe supervised environment for children ages 6-12. They are given a break from school, provided with a snack, helped with their homework, outdoor games and activities and socializing with other kids their age. All this takes place in a supportive and positive atmosphere. Parents and caring citizens alike testify that these programs are what can make the difference in a child’s life. Instilling a sense of community, of respect of themselves and others, and above all keeping them safe and showing him that he is loved and that he matters. These children are the future of our community and our nation. The idea that we are discussing the insignificant amount of dollars and cents that it takes to keep these programs in place, as is, continues to be a sensitive subject, one that would seem to define a rift between government and citizens.