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After school program strives to remain in operation for another year

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River Valley Child Development Services’  School Age Connections program is working to raise funds to continue its program for another year and longer if possible.

RVCDS provides early childhood care and education services for children and families. RVCDS’ School Age Connections is an after-school program which keeps children engaged, both physically and mentally. It provides activities for each child’s needs and interests. The program helps children prosper socially, while still helping them develop their independence skills.

“The format of this program has been heavily enrichment-based,” said Valerie Bailey, Director of the School Age Connections program. “This means that we have not just been ‘watching’ the children. We offer some kind of activity for them every day – arts and crafts, STEM activities, group games, cooking, physical activity, nutrition, local history, reading, computer time, robotics, music, and mental health just to name a few.”

Bailey said these activities are provided with help from local organizations and businesses, such as the Huntington Museum of Art, Marshall Unversity, The June Harless Center, YMCA Kids in Motion, the Guyandotte Public Library and the Guyandotte Historical Society.

The after school program at Guyandotte Elementary provides its services free of charge to families at Guyandotte Elementary School, although the cost to operate per child is about $1,000. Guyandotte’s RVCDS currently has 42 students enrolled.

“To completely fund a program for an entire school-year, 5 days per week from school dismissal until 6 p.m., for 32 children, at zero cost to families – is approximately $27,000,” Bailey said.

The program is designed for children ages four through 12 enrolled in Pre-Kindergarten through fifth grade. The program also provides all day release for day care due to a break or school cancellation. RVCDS even offers a summer camp as part of School Age Connections.

“I think the most rewarding aspect of this program is the impact it is making on the lives of these young children,” said Jessica Lundy, School Age Connections Site Supervisor. “They are learning that they do matter in this big ole world, that they each have something to offer, and that their words are powerful tools. Sometimes the one-on-one talks we have with students about why they are talented, full of potential, or worth so much more than mere words are all they need to keep from giving up on reaching their goals. That means the world to me. Every moment that a child believes otherwise breaks my heart.”

RVCDS has teamed up with Marshall University’s student run public relations firm, Be Herd Communications, to raise funds for the upcoming school year. Together they have partnered with local businesses for fundraising events, such as Cabell-Wayne Animal Shelter, Backyard Pizza and Raw Bar and Christopher’s Eats.

Mikaela Keener, Director of Be Herd Communications, said the experiences gained from the public relations capstone class provides the students insight into the public relations field while helping community organizations.

“This is a great opportunity for our class to have real-life experience in the public relations field while giving back to our community,” Keener said. “We are honored to be working with River Valley Child Development Services to help the continuation of the after school program, and to provide the children of Guyandotte a safe and educational after-school environment.”

Funds raised from all events go to RVCDS and help plan the large event fundraiser. The large event is a Murder Mystery Masquerade. There will be food, a silent auction and games. All the proceeds made from these events will go to RVCDS to continue providing these free services to local families in Guyandotte.

“I wish people could see the community that is being built around this little program,” Lundy said. “The teachers offer me tips, advice and help anytime I need it or ask. They are willing to spend a little extra time with a student in after-school for homework help or encouragement. The teachers and staff at Guyandotte are so helpful and encouraging. And the parents! It’s neat to see how the parents come together to bring extra snacks, books and puzzles. The parents and teachers are very much a part of the program. Going to work at Guyandotte feels like home. The people and students feel like family.”

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