Summer fun for kids

When school is out, the real fun begins &

right back in the classroom.

For community-focused businesses and organizations in Ashland, the last day of the school year is really the first day of classes.

Often times, places like the YMCA, Parks and Recreation Department, ScienceWorks and Oregon Stage Works are associated primarily with leisure-like activities and destinations. However, for those in charge of the children's programs, the business of leisure is an opportunity to continue education throughout the summer.

"This is definitely education," said Lisa Molnar, executive director of Ashland YMCA. "But it's also enrichment, it's building friendships and it's fun."

At 9 a.m. almost all of the children enrolled in one of the week's many programs have arrived at the YMCA. Molnar estimates that on any given week 200 or more could be arriving for a weeklong class, a summer camp or general day care. Throughout the summer Molnar guesses that the number will reach well over 1,000 different children taking classes at least once at the facility.

"Most people, even most of our members, don't realize the extent of our youth program," Molnar said.

Molnar explains that most of the members use the exercise room fairly exclusively and about half of them are also familiar with the pool area and the basketball courts.

Unless you are a member with a child, chances are you don't know about the remaining half of the building. The education wing is a series of classrooms with brightly colored walls, tiny chairs and sounds of children playing games, making friends and growing up.

"We are trying to work under the whole umbrella of youth development here," Molnar said. "We have courses and camps that are educating and building life skills. There is absolutely nothing more rewarding than making kids stronger, healthier and better all-around people."

Ashland YMCA is offering day camps, each with a different theme, from 8 a.m. to — p.m. in one-week intervals all summer long. Camps run Monday through Friday and are open to children in grades kindergarten through sixth. The cost is $100 for members and $120 otherwise. Also offered throughout the summer are half-day sports camps which include gymnastics, swimming, soccer, basketball, flag football and volleyball. Sports camps are $65 for members and $80 for nonmembers.

On the other side of town, in the middle of Lithia Park, Rachel Teige and Joy Bannon go over the list of activities in the current Parks and Recreation Department program guide. Their outlook on continued education is the same.

"We are getting kids more involved and more active," said Teige, the recreation supervisor of the department. "This is great. Youth recreation is so important to the community because for these kids it's an introduction to a lifetime skill."

The Parks and Recreation building is not as active as the YMCA, but that is the point. The Parks and Recreation Department aims to provide specialized classes and courses throughout the city as opposed to the day-camp offerings of the YMCA.

"We aren't stepping on anyone's toes," Teige said. "We don't want to, this is about providing the community with different opportunities to learn and allowing members of the community to share their knowledge with the kids."

Where the YMCA is more of a daylong provider, the Parks and Recreation Department offers single classes from several different instructors. Among the classes being offered this year are water polo, kayaking and ballet.

"We have a lot of new stuff we haven't done before this year," Teige said. "All of this is really exciting. We have only had a true recreation department here for three years. Watching it grow is really fun."

"This is all here because there is a need for it," said Bannon, the recreation coordinator for the department. "The parks belong to everyone, but the recreation part is so important because the way we spend our leisure time is how we are defined as a community."

The Parks and Recreation courses are offered all summer with several different locations throughout Ashland. Until the end of August the department is providing instruction in swim lessons, kayaking, tennis, golf, music, dance and more. The North Mountain Park Nature Center, located in North Mountain Park, will also be offering several nature-related classes. Prices vary for each class.

While the two organizations are located on the opposite sides of town and offer different styles of learning, the same ideals of youth development and community growth are prevalent in both locations. Along with the local YMCA and Parks and Recreation, Ashland is home to many youth destinations throughout the summer.

For more information on the groups available to youth in the community, feel free to contact any of the resources provided in today's Ashland Daily Tidings.

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