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After-school activities start at Ligonier Camp and Conference Center

| Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Cami DiBattista | for the Ligonier Echo
Ligonier Valley Middle School students enjoy an afternoon of activities at the Ligonier Camp and Conference Center as a kickoff for the Middle School Initiative Program being offered by the Ligonier Valley YMCA.

Four hundred middle school students kicked off a new year of the Ligonier Valley YMCA's after-school program with an afternoon of activity at The Ligonier Camp and Conference Center last week.

The goal of the kickoff was to introduce students to core values that the Y hopes to focus on for the remainder of the year — trust, commitment and surrender.

“The objective of the program is to increate knowledge of, and personal practice associated with, making healthy choices,” said YMCA Executive Director Ben Wright.

The sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders engaged in activities and games that focused on commitment to teamwork and ways in which to build trust.

“I think it's amazing,” said sixth-grade teacher Paula Brown. “My students are in homeroom with each other only about 10 minutes out the day and when we did the ice breaker activity, some of them didn't even know each other's names. Now they're working together as a team.”

Brown said she is thrilled that the program is not just a one-day event, but something her students can continue on with at the Y for the remainder of the year.

“We'd like to start a culture in the school system where the students learn to interact and live out these core values and have it filter back in to the neighborhoods,” said Patrick Myers, executive director of the LCCC. Myers said the center is pleased to partner with the YMCA in this endeavor. “Students are often pitted against each other and we want them to learn to rely on each other and look out for each other,” said Jim Paul, director of adventure education at the conference center.

The after-school program at the YMCA will focus on physical activity and healthy living.

Activities will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The first hour will consist of structured physical activity, such as swimming, rock climbing and kickball.

Students will receive tutoring or assistance with homework, projects and schoolwork from a paid tutor or teacher, from 4 to 5 p.m.

In addition to regular activities, the Y hopes to offer field trips, such as a snow tubing or white water rafting, for students who participate regularly.

“This is a good program,” said Wright. “It encourages students to be more active.”

The program is an extension of one the Y has offered the last two years to promote physical activity in pre-teens. It was created in response to parent's concern about their children's inactivity after-school hours.

For the last two years, approximately 200 students participated in the one-hour program. With the addition of the extra hours and homework help, Wright said he hopes to see even more students participate in this year's activities.

Grant funding from the Grable Foundation and a donation from the Markosky Engineering Group have made the program possible and ensure that it will continue for at least the next two years.

“We're glad to be a part of it,” Myers said. “Our hope is to one day extend this opportunity to high school students as well.”

Cami DiBattista is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.