LEOMINSTER – From arts and crafts to cycling and hiking, the Spanish American Center is gearing up for a summer’s worth of programming for local kids.
The Summer Fun Program for children aged 5-13 starts Monday, June 27 and runs through Friday, Aug. 12 at the Spanish American Center, 112 Spruce St.
Donata Martin, a consultant with the Spanish American Center, said some offerings will focus on STEAM – science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.
“We’ll have arts and crafts,” she explained. “We’re going to have storytelling. The kids are going to use their book lists from the summer, and we’re going to try and get the books, have some book clubs and get their reading done. And then we’re going to supplement that with some other readings, some art, some journaling, some more outdoor activities. ”
Also being offered this summer will be athletic activities such as basketball, hiking and bicycling, according to Martin.
“The Police Department donated bikes,” she said, “and so next week the junior staff will be learning how to repair and will be repairing the bikes for the summer program, so all the kids will have a chance to ride. And then there are some doctors in the community that have donated helmets, so each one of the children will be able to have their own helmet [and] be able to take those home. ”
A big part of the Summer Youth Program, which the Spanish American Center has offered for more than two decades, is free breakfast and lunch – a big help for kids who ordinarily depend on school for one or two meals out of their day.
“They’ll have a nutritious and healthy breakfast, and the same with lunch,” said Spanish American Center Executive Director Neddy Latimer. “Because I don’t believe in sandwiches. It’s hot meals. That’s why we have gotten very popular. “
This year’s summer program can give kids the opportunity to both keep busy during summer vacation and learn some of the skills they missed out on when schools went virtual during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Children are still catching up,” Martin said. “Some of the socialization that they didn’t have because they were isolated, [they have to] work on that, with the kids being around each other now. Academic catchup, enrichment, sports and getting out because they were inside a lot. Being able to do all of that is really important. ”
Plus, Latimer said, the program teaches children and teenagers about inclusion and diversity.
“Everyone is welcome to come to our program,” she said. “Embracing one another is so important for the kids to learn.”
The Summer Youth Program also provides some local teenagers with their first job, as junior counselors, thanks to grants from various organizations.
“They will work with program instructors,” Martin said. “They will learn how to facilitate a program. They’re going to learn all about behavior management and de-escalation. They’ll learn a little bit about mental health issues and how to work with the clinician that we have, and they’re going to have a great time. ”
Programs at the Spanish American Center run each weekday from 9 am to 12:30 pm for children aged 5-7, and from 9 am to 5 pm for ages 8-13.
Additional activities for kids of all ages will be offered starting Tuesday, July 5 at several more locations in Leominster: Allencrest Apartments on Viscoloid Avenue, Fournier Park on Litchfield Street, Riverside Village Apartments on State Street and Silver Leaf Terrace off Litchfield Street.
Applications for the Summer Youth Program will be available at the Summer Kickoff at the Spanish American Center on Saturday, June 25 from 9 am to 1 pm There will be plenty of food – hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream from the Fidelity Bank ice cream truck and slushies – along with games, music, raffles, and COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots from Moderna and Pfizer.
“Everyone is invited,” Latimer said.
The Summer Kickoff and Summer Youth Program are sponsored by the Health Equity Partnership of North Central Massachusetts (CHNA-9), the Leominster Cultural Council and the United Way of North Central Massachusetts.
For more information, call the Spanish American Center at (978) 534-3145.