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Mansfield YMCA Kids Club benefits Lexington elementary students, looks to expand to other district

Parents of elementary students from Lexington Local Schools have a new before-and after-school care option. The Mansfield YMCA Kids Club launched this school year at Central, Eastern, and Western Elementary Schools. In previous school years, students had the option to take part in the program at the Y’s Preschool and Early Learning Center in Lexington. This meant additional travel time and adapting to a different set of expectations and rules. YMCA President/CEO Cristen Gilbert started conversations with the Lexington school district in Feb. 2018. From there, the two organizations collaborated and planned over the spring and summer to incorporate the program. Western Elementary School Principal Genelle Eggerton helps students with their homework during Kids Club.

“Having this program here is one more way to work together and unite to meet the needs of families and children that we serve in Lexington,” said Western Elementary School Principal Genelle Eggerton. The program takes place before and after the regular school day. Students take part in physical activities and homework time. Some of the more popular activities include hoola hooping, bike riding, basketball, and crafts. They also enjoy breakfast and afternoon snacks.

Across the three schools, more than 60 students are enrolled. Families continue to enroll throughout the school year.YMCA childcare instructors incorporate expectations such as the Lex Way so that students maintain the same expectations before, during and after school. Lexington teachers and YMCA staff communicate about learning concepts. With the new setup, school-age students have their own space.

“I enjoy being with the students every day,” Alyssa Singree, Lead Kids Club Teacher said. “I learn about each one of them. I try to get close with their parents and watch them learn.”The response from parents has been overwhelmingly positive. Many families utilized the YMCA childcare located in Grace Brethren Church previously, but appreciate their children staying in the school environment. Students are equally excited. “They seem to love it,” Kids Club Coordinator Jen Eckenwiler said. “They don’t want to leave.”

Third-grade Western Elementary student Kylee Boor said she enjoys the program and the friends she has made. “I don’t have to go on a bus and wait on a bus line,” Boor said. “I can just come here and play all I want. My favorite is jump rope and hoola hooping. It’s pretty fun to see new people here that were not at the summer daycare (through the YMCA).” Second-grader Diem Gilbert said the program is fun. “I like when we eat a snack and playing with hoola hoops,” Gilbert said. “I make new friends. I get help with math homework.” Second-grader John Jacobs said he has made three new friends and enjoys riding bikes. “It’s a lot of fun.” The Mansfield YMCA plans to expand Kids Club to other school districts in upcoming school years. “We’ve heard there’s a need in Mansfield and the surrounding areas,” Eckenwiler said. Eggerton’s biggest goal is to continue serving children with community partners. “Combining services and working together as a community base is better for the children,” Eggerton said.

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