EARLY YEARS: Spaces still available at the YMCA of Virginia’s Blue Ridge new enrichment centers

Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 6:11 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Students are gradually getting into the swing of the new “normal”, with classes fully virtual or on a hybrid schedule.

To help families navigate the situation, the YMCA of Virginia’s Blue Ridge opened five enrichment centers across the region.

“It’s definitely been different. It’s strange,” says Roanoke City fifth grader Evelye Paite.

Fellow fifth grader KJ Saint-Jean agrees, " It’s kind of, like, confusing and hard, but you know we’re going to get used to it probably."

That’s how a lot of students are feeling about this school year.

Luckily, these Roanoke City students are getting help navigating their all virtual classes at the Kirk Family YMCA.

It’s one of several enrichment centers the Y is running this year.

“As it all kind of settled out to primarily online learning, we felt like ‘okay’ this is the place where we’re going to be most needed,” says President and CEO of YMCA of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mark Johnson.

The enrichment program runs from 7:00 am until 6:00 pm weekdays.

“If we get breakfast, we open our computers and log in and we get started with school in the mornings,” says Saint-Jean.

As you can see, each student’s class schedule is posted, and there are Y staff members and volunteers to help with schoolwork.

“Really heavily focused on the first half of the day, helping the kids, I think not just learn, but navigate the differences in how they’re learning,” says Johnson.

Once the schoolwork is done, the kids can take break from their desks and have fun in the gym or take part in other enrichment activities.

At the Kirk Family Y, there are 53 kids being served.

Across the region, the Y is serving 140, and officials say there’s room for more.

“At the end of the day, it’s our job to make sure that these kids are getting the best opportunity to continue to learn and not get behind as they move forward in their school year," says Johnson.

Johnson says the weekly rate for the enrichment centers is about $170, but there is financial aid available. One good resource to look for it is Smart Beginnings Greater Roanoke Smart2Start.

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