Thursday, August 15, was the exciting start of a new school year for the children who attend Southside K-8 school in McDowell County, West Virginia.

An equally exciting day was Tuesday, August 20, for about two dozen or so Southside students who are fortunate enough to be able to attend the “Extra Cool Afterschool” program hosted by Americans Helping Americans® partner there, Big Creek People in Action (BCPIA) for the past 10 years.

Without this afterschool program, many of these elementary school children would “go home to a house with limited food and a parent who isn’t concerned about making them a hot meal for supper,” reports BCPIA co-executive director Dyanne Spriggs.

For the children who live in the area of the tiny community of Caretta, they are able to ride their school bus and get dropped off at BCPIA’s headquarters where the afterschool program is held. For children who do not live nearby, BCPIA staff goes to the school to pick up the students.

The students who attend the afterschool program have a busy schedule every Monday through Thursday beginning when they arrive at 3:45 p.m. for a computer lab until 4:20 p.m. when they have a break to go wash up for supper.

And what a supper it is as the children receive a healthy full course meal with typical menus being baked pork chops, green beans, mac and cheese, mixed fruit, roll and milk one day, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, green beans and applesauce the next, Italian chicken, potatoes, green beans and applesauce, the following day, and what is likely their favorite; pizza, with salad, corn and pears.

Following their meal, it’s time to brush their teeth (perhaps using their Mighty Molars dental kits provided by Americans Helping Americans®) and then time to do their homework for a half hour with the help of tutors who are there to answer questions and give them the individualized attention they may need but do not get in a classroom with 29 classmates.

Then, depending on the weather, the children get another half hour to play outside or exercise indoors, get a light snack such as graham crackers and peanut butter, or maybe even “ants on a log” (a.k.a celery with peanut butter and raisins).

While most of the kids in the afterschool program attend school nearby, a few, such as Karla are home schooled.

Last year, 10-year-old Karla was out on the playground at the same time as the children in the afterschool program and expressed an interest in signing up to join them and her mother signed her up for the summer program offered by BCPIA.

“At first she was very shy because she didn’t really know the kids,” said Dyanne. “But eventually she made friends and started the enjoying program.”

Another little girl told of how much she especially enjoys the tutoring she receives in the program because “her parents never help her with her homework,” said Dyanne.

“I really like the way you all help me with my homework and give me my spelling words,” she told one of her tutors. “I’ve been doing better in school since I’ve been here.”

Several of them also really appreciate the help they receive with special projects, such as for the science fair and social studies fair where they are provided with the presentation boards, computers to do their research, and help with printing out the information and putting it on their boards.

“I would have not been able to do my project without your help,” said one student.

And all of the kids express their gratitude “every day about the good food they eat here,” added Dyanne.

Thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® we are able to support BCPIA after school feeding program, at a cost of $5 per child per day.

“One of our most rewarding programs is our afterschool program,” says Dyanne. “Many of our parents do not place literacy or education as a high priority for their children.

“They majority of our kids have parents who are on some kind of public assistance and don’t work. Feeding these kids a good supper and snack and helping them with their homework are our greatest priorities.

“We face many challenges when it comes to educating our children, but with the support from Americans Helping Americans®, we are able to extend the reach of our education and afterschool program so that more young people receive the best opportunity to succeed.

“With support from Americans Helping Americans®, we can provide access to resources and networks that will, over time, make a large, significant difference in our community.”