All-Star volunteer Eric Kertzman (in purple) leading a geo-caching team. (Photo: Peter Morning)
During my middle school days in Michigan, I had to battle through a daily one hour and 15 minute city bus commute to get home from school. This journey consisted of a downtown transfer that was always coupled with pee soaked seats and a 30 minute layover.
To avoid the typical crazies and weirdos that accompany inner city public transportation, I spent most of this layover time at an adjacent pizza parlor to watch community college kids play Street Fighter II and other mundane arcade games. When I finally got home, I would cut through my neighbor’s lawn (a neighbor who would coincidentally always let his Doberman Pinscher out to crap at about the same time). After a brief sprint to my front door, I typically found that my sister would already be there (because she refused to give me a ride home) and I would spend the rest of that precious unsupervised time between school and parental arrival playing basketball in the driveway and eating four bowls of cereal.
For many of us, just thinking back to your middle school days typically unearths a plethora of awkward and farcical memories. Though my personal prepubescent experiences may seem slightly bad, or annoying at worst, for many kids just having a place to go after school is considered a privilege.
Last weekend, 39 students from schools in Los Angeles and Las Vegas arrived in Mammoth Lakes, many of whom have never been out of the city, as part of the After School All-Stars Program (ASAS). The brainchild of Gov. Schwarzenegger, the after-school program serves 80,000 underprivileged students in 13 cities across the country.
“We provide real life experiences,“ said Site Coordinator, Maria Serrano of Christine O’Donovan Middle Academy in Los Angeles. “Our kids are usually low income, disadvantaged students. Kids who can’t afford these types of programs. Especially in middle school, the kids are really looking for direction. They might find a passion in music or art and then pursue those things, they just need the opportunities.”
A typical ASAS program starts immediately after school (on site) and offers programs like homework tutoring, credit recovery, enrichment programs, music, dance, fitness, photography, multi-media club and community service programs. On the weekends the ASAS takes field trips to museums, parks, baseball games and, twice a year, a trip to Mammoth.
“It was great to part of the program and show these kids Mammoth,” said Point Coordinator and MMSA employee Ben Wisener. “Some of them have never left the city before, so it was awesome to see them enjoy something we often take for granted.”
While here in Mammoth, the students stayed at the Mammoth Mountain Inn and enjoyed free meals and shuttle services as well as hikes to locations like Devil’s Postpile, gondola rides, mountain biking, geo-caching and career path seminars.
“We have a lot of kids from South Central and East L.A. most of whom have never seen snow, let alone a forest or mountains,“ said Site Coordinator, Lex Chmiel of Getz Ressler High School. “They were in love with the surroundings. The mountain biking was the most fun, the kids were all excited about it … let’s just say they got a workout.”
This is the second year of Mammoth Mountain’s partnership with ASAS. For many of the volunteers, it was their first time with the program. “I have never seen a kid smile so big,” said MMSA volunteer Eric Kertzman, “especially after rolling their mountain bike and tumbling 40 ft. down the trail! Everyone had a great time. I can‘t wait till next year!”
To learn more about the After School All-Stars program visit their website at www.as-as.org