It’s hard work raising healthy, happy children. As a mom, I know how tough it is for a single parent to be the sole person responsible for everything. From disciplining to helping with homework and getting dinner ready, we could all use some extra support. The Ten Sleep Community Learning Center that I direct lends a hand so that more moms and dads can get home from work and put supper on the table. Our program gives kids in our community a safe place to go after school and teaches them how to be more responsible and accountable for their schoolwork at a younger age. Parents appreciate the additional support that we provide and kids want to come to our program because they get to do crafts and other fun activities that keep them busy.
I started working at the Ten Sleep Community Learning Center (CLC) after moving to the community with my family in 2006. I had previously worked as a hairdresser and still operate my own hair salon in addition to running the Ten Sleep CLC. Leading the program was a brand new experience for me as I didn’t have any prior experience in afterschool. The work is challenging but I love being a part of the kids’ lives, taking care of them and watching them grow.
Ten Sleep is a small rural community where many hardworking parents often commute long distances to get to and from work. The commute is especially hard on single parent families who worry about their kids’ safety when school lets out. Our program also serves a number of families who live far from town in the country. For many of these families, our afterschool program is the only way their kids can stay connected to their peers and not feel so isolated. One of our families is a single mom with two young children and she works more than 25 miles away. Her children, like so many of the kids we serve, would be home alone if it were not for the Ten Sleeps CLC. Here they can be with their friends, do homework, play and have a snack.
One of the most rewarding parts of my job is seeing how excited the kids get to participate in our program. I see them literally “run” from the school to get started on their afterschool activities. Some of our kids come from unstable home environments and we give them stability and structure. We help them with their homework and provide emotional support. We can see the improvements in their progress in the classroom. A great thing about our center is that we serve kids from kindergarten all the way up to high school. Our older students use the computers for their schoolwork but the program also gives them an opportunity to help the younger kids and be positive role models.
The toughest challenge that we face is getting transportation for the kids to travel home from the afterschool program. There is no bus and some families live close to 40 miles outside of town. For many of them, it’s hard to come back into town to pick up the kids if they didn’t ride the bus home. Sadly, because of transportation issues, we’re not able to serve many of the kids who need our program the most.