New offerings for new year at Westside Center

       With the new year, the Westside Community Center, 1628 W. Bijou St., is offering the public some new opportunities.
       They are summarized below.
  • Two new, free monthly Saturday events will start in February. Featuring activities in the gym and other parts of the center, one event will be geared for middle and high schoolers (the second Saturday) and the other for families (fourth Saturday). Both will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • A recently state-licensed elementary after-school program is available from 2:30 to 6 p.m. on school days. A similar program was offered after school last fall, but the center is now busing Bristol students as well as those from Buena Vista, Midland and West elementaries.

    Westside Community Center line dancing teacher Yu Preiss Hong (second from right) leads her class during their first session of the new year Jan. 4. It's one of several continuing classes at the center.
    Westside Pioneer photo

           The license ensures that facilities and staff “fairly stringment” state requirements for safety and security; it also makes the center eligible for an aid program “to help parents who can't afford the full tuition,” according to Dick Siever of Woodmen Valley Chapel, which runs the center through a lease with the city.
  • Also recently state-licensed is the center's preschool program. The provider will continue to be Wilson United Methodist Church, which took over the existing preschool - combining it with students and staff from the former Rock Ledge program - after the city closed both of them when turning the center over to Woodmen last April.
  • New classes/activities are scheduled, along with the continuation of some popular ones. In a switch from past practices at the center, nearly all classes will be in the daytime, with the latest ending at 7 p.m.
           Below are more details on each of the bulleted items above:
           Second Saturday Sensations. This is the name of the new monthly event for middle and high schoolers, starting in February. According to Siever, various types of activities, with an intent only to continue those that draw interest, but ideas that probably will come forward include competitions with Wii interactive game; live music (“battle of the bands”), dodgeball, jump rope, ping-pong and three-on-three basketball; talent shows, bike repair, cooking classes, arts and crafts and remote cars.

    As part of a recent discussion on transportation, Tiffiny Pieper of Wilson United Methodist Church's Diakonia preschool program donned a hardhat in the Westside Community Center classroom. "We built a train with the large mats," Pieper said. "The kids had a great time." The preschool recently received its state license.
    Westside Pioneer photo

           Participants (even those who don't do well in the competitions) will get points that can be used to “shop” for fun items (like at an arcade), Siever said.
           Fourth Saturday Family Fusion. This is the name of the new Saturday event for families, starting in February. The emphasis will be on doing things as a family - “this is not designed for parents to drop off their children and leave,” Siever said.
           The itinerary will include some of the same activities as above, along with the participation-points concept, although the Wii games will be at lower skill levels, and “the emphasis will be totally different,” Siever noted.
           After-school program. The advertised tuition per student is $110 a month, but “financial support is available for qualified families,” Siever said. Along with free bus transport from the four schools, the program includes snacks, “physical and creative activies as well as reading mentoring and help with homework,” as stated in the center's ad copy.
           Siever said Woodmen had started the licensing effort last September. Having the license “says to parents that their children are going to be in a safe, comfortable place,” he said. One of the state requirements was for emergency lighting capabilities, which Woodmen installed. Fortunately, Siever said, the building's ceilings already had a sprinkler system (another state requirement).
           Preschool. Unlike the previous city-run operation, which went in seven-week blocks, Wilson's Westside Community Preschool continues year-round under the umbrella name of Diakonia (Greek for “service”). The times are 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wilson had begun its preschool program 10 years ago at its church on Flying W Ranch Road. Getting involved in the Westside Center was part of the church's goal of helping working parents in a lower-income area, explained Tiffiny Pieper, Diakonia's vice president of preschool opportunities. A similar operation is now planned at Meadows Community Center (another former city center that is to be run by a private entity).
           Full or half-tuition is offered, based on income, according to Pieper. For more information, call 344-8995.
           Classes. These are either continuing, or will start the week of the 17th, Siever said. For more information on times, prices and availability, call the center at 385-7920.

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