Brownsville offers summer recreational program for kids - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Brownsville offers summer recreational program for kids

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Posted: Monday, June 10, 2019 8:45 pm

Twelve-year-old Roman Ybarra stretched purple slime that slowly inflated into a bubble as he blew onto the sticky muck.

Ybarra and Brandon Hernandez, 13, proudly held up pieces of purple ooze that they each made at an afternoon crafts session last week in Brownsville.

“It doesn’t really do anything, “ Hernandez said, “but the feel of it, and stretching it into different shapes and sizes, is a great way to relieve stress.”

As summer is heating up in Brownsville, the city’s Park and Recreation Department is offering activities to keep children active all season long.

“What a great way to spend a rainy afternoon,” Ybarra said.

For children just like Ybarra and Hernandez — anyone from ages 6 to 17 — the parks department recently started a 10-week summer recreation program at two locations: The Rec Center at 1338 E. 8th Street; and Gonzalez Park at 34 Tony Gonzalez Drive.

The program kicked off June 3 and continues through Aug. 9.

Michelle Otero, special events coordinator for the parks and recreation department, has been a supervisor at the Rec Center for the past seven years, and she is proud of the bonds that the students form over the summer session.

“Some kids will come for a week or two, then go on their family vacation, or have to finish up summer school, and then they come back in to one or more of the weekly sessions of the program when they return,” she said. “Most of the kids come from different schools, so, at the summer program, they get to reconnect with their friends from last year.”

In a room at the Rec Center last week, a group of 8- and 9-year-olds were engrossed in a game of musical chairs, while three friends remained seated on the sidelines, watching with concentration as Isaie Didier played his way through the latest version of Rayman on the Nintendo Switch.

“I’d rather keep playing this,” Dieder said, “because I always worry that I’d accidentally sit on someone — instead of a chair.”

Weekly, each session of the summer program has an enrollment cap limiting the number of students who can participate. The Rec Center will have a maximum of 90 children per week, and the cap at Gonzalez Park is 140. However, slots can open and close as the schedule moves through the summer.

Recreation and Community Inclusion Coordinator Gloria Gonzalez said the activities will include indoor and outdoor sports, recreational games, and arts and crafts.

Every week has a specific concept, such as last week’s Hawaiian Luau theme. In true Polynesian spirit, a group of a half dozen 6- and 7-year-olds competed in the gym with sparkling hula hoops, which lit up with each gyration, for a dive into the prized treasure chest.

Otero stressed that the safety of the kids is a primary concern at PARD programs.

“Parents have to sign their child in at the beginning of the day, and sign them out in the afternoon when they come to pick up their kids,” she said.

Each class is lead by one of 24 seasonal recreational leaders, who are 18 or older.

“The kids call them ‘coaches,’ and there’s always a bit of friendly competition among each class,” Otero said. “During the morning, the kids will make banners supporting their coach when they know their leader is competing against another in a friendly game of basketball or dodge ball.”

The program schedule runs Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the weekly cost is $30.

An extended program is also available at both locations Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and costs an additional $10 per week.

Otero says that she expects the summer program to add even more activities next year.

Her most rewarding moments come as she witnesses the bonds developing not only between the students, but also with their coaches.

“It’s amazing to watch all the friendships that will develop here over the next few weeks,” she said.

sgroves@brownsvilleherald.com

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