The Moab BEACON Afterschool Program provides a safe, structured space for elementary and middle school students between the end of the school day and 5 p.m., not only good for kids, but a boon to many locally working parents.
“It allows a lot of our families to have less stress around the issue of child care,” said Xandra Odland, director of BEACON Afterschool. She said they did not count the number of parents who relied on the program for childcare during work hours, but many students attended BEACON every weekday throughout the four sessions. offered during the school year.
BEACON’s programming includes fun and rewarding clubs and activities as well as academic support.
Recently, the organization has expanded its tutoring programs and excursion opportunities and added new clubs. they are looking to hire more staff to help the organization continue to grow and solicit contributions to their annual fundraiser.
The organization’s annual report reviewing the 2020/2021 school year says the organization served more than two hundred students from Helen M. Knight Elementary School, Moab Charter School, Middle School Margaret L. Hopkin and homeschooling, aided by community support and volunteers. . 189 elementary-aged students attended at least one BEACON club, and 72 of those students attended BEACON for at least 30 days of the year.
More than half of the children currently enrolled at Helen M. Knight Elementary have participated in BEACON at some point during their time at school. Enrollment in the full-fee program is affordable, and a sliding scale system is in place for low-income families.
Odland said while many students attend BEACON year-round, many also sign up for a single club or activity that interests them. Club themes range from arts and crafts to sports, music, games and the outdoors. A BEACON staff member is also an active artist and he runs a club called “Art with Daniel”.
Starting next spring, the organization will launch a new club in partnership with the local association Science Moab, focusing on nature and science. Children will have the opportunity to interact with the outdoors in different ways. Final programming is still being determined, but there could be outdoor painting, plant identification, and sessions with local scientists. BEACON often partners with other community organizations to create clubs for students, including the Youth Garden Project, Canyon Country Outdoor Education, and the Moab Valley Multicultural Center.
Last year, BEACON acquired a bus, thus opening up the range of possibilities for excursions. The program may use Grand County School District buses for some transportation: for example, taking students to a partner organization’s campus after school. School district drivers operate the buses. Having its own bus means BEACON can schedule field trips outside of the school district’s vehicle availability schedule.
Last year, the students used the BEACON bus to visit the area’s dinosaur tracks and the climbing rocks at Lions Park. The bus also allowed a horse therapy club for college students. Twice a week, students were bused to the Old Spanish Trail Arena to spend time with horses. This spring, BEACON organizers plan to use the bus to take kids to outdoor areas they might not have been able to visit otherwise, like the Poison Spider Trail and Courthouse Wash.
The 2020/2021 report includes testimonials from parents and teachers who say BEACON benefits children.
“My daughter showed an increased desire to get out and help us with gardening after
attending the BEACON club of the Kindergarten project, ”wrote a parent. “She learned to enjoy growing things and caring for plants. We really enjoy BEACON clubs and how they expose our kids to new healthy activities.
Most students surveyed who participated in BEACON said they learned new things, got help with homework, and made new friends through the program.
Melissa McKimmey is the Elementary Programs Coordinator and works directly with the students every day. While working on an afternoon art project, a BEACON student recently told her that he couldn’t wait until the same time the next day so he could be at BEACON again. McKimmey said she particularly enjoys the snacks because it’s a break from giving and following instructions that allows her to spend time getting to know the children, asking them questions about their day and their interests.
McKimmey said the most popular club right now is chess. Seventeen students have registered, although there are only 12 places available.
“That’s the sad part,” McKimmey said. Waiting lists of five to 10 students are common, partly because it is difficult to retain part-time staff for hours that do not easily match other jobs, and partly because more children and parents are interested in participating in BEACON.
In addition to providing affordable childcare and enriching activities for children, BEACON can help children who are struggling with their lessons.
According to a Grade 5 teacher quoted in the report, “tutors are knowledgeable and work alongside the classroom teacher so that the student has a better understanding and is able to catch up.”
BEACON recently expanded the tutoring aspect of the program, with academic help offered for a wider range of levels and the addition of peer tutoring. They are looking for a part-time academic tutor for the primary classes.
BEACON is also looking to hire several other positions, including part-time college and charter school managers. Leaders work with children to provide academic support and enrichment clubs. A part-time animator position is also available for primary school children. The organization also offers two full-time positions: a teen program manager and a site coordinator for Helen M. Knight Elementary School. Volunteers who can teach a skill or help out at a club or event are also always welcome. BEACON maintains a ratio of one adult supervisor for every 12 children, or one adult for every six children tutored. This ratio means that some children who enroll in clubs have to be put on a waiting list. Odland said with more staff, the program could accommodate more children.
The organization also hopes that with more staff, it can launch another program specifically for teachers with children. Some days there is no school for the students, but the teachers participate in professional development days or organize parent/teacher conferences. If these teachers have children of their own, it can be difficult to find daycare.
“A lot of times if there’s no school, there’s no daycare,” McKimmey said. BEACON wants to provide care for the children of school district personnel on those days.
BEACON launched its annual fundraising campaign in November 2021 and raised about half of its $10,000 goal. The campaign ends in March.
“BEACON is funded by federal grants and the rest of the support comes from our annual campaign and financial support from local businesses,” said Lindsey Bartosh, Family and Community Outreach Coordinator for BEACON.
“We’ve had a lot of corporate donations at this time of year, which is exciting,” Odland said.
Donations can be made online at www.moabbeacon.net/donate-1, or by check payable to BEACON Afterschool mailed to 264 South 400 East. All donors will receive a BEACON supporter sticker; larger donors can receive stickers, tote bags and signage. Donations are used to buy snacks, supplies and books.