Kid’s First to add pair of new programs

The sounds of clanking weightlifting equipment will mix with quiet reading sessions January at the Kid’s First Community Awareness Learning Center in Alabaster, as the center will be expanding its after-school offerings.

Kid’s First will begin offering the Ready for Success reading initiative program and a closely monitored fitness and nutrition program aimed at combating youth obesity.

The pair of programs will each be tailored to about 20 children in grades K-12 who regularly attend the center’s after-school programs.

“We are trying to bridge the gap between school and home here every day,” said Kid’s First Director Cindy Hawkins. “We are trying to teach them to do better in their lives.

“Life is the overall goal at our center. We want to give these kids a better life,” Hawkins added. “We want them to grow up to be working members of society, not dependents on it.”

Through the fitness program, the center will provide several pieces of workout equipment for the children, and will help teach them to make nutritious decisions when they eat.

Every day, center staff and volunteers will supervise the children as they use each workout machine for about five minutes at a time before rotating to the next piece of equipment, Hawkins explained.

The center will keep files on each student who participates in the program, and will track their height, blood pressure levels and other health-related statistics as the program progresses over the next six years.

“We are trying to bring the gym to these kids, so they will be around the equipment more when they are younger and know how to use it,” Hawkins said. “That way, they’re not intimidated when they get to middle school or high school and have a chance to use that kind of equipment.

“With the nutrition program, we will focus on teaching the kids how to eat healthier every day,” Hawkins said. “A lot of kids are hungry when they get off the bus after school, and we want for them to at least know what they should put in their mouth and what they shouldn’t.”

The reading initiative program will also take place over the next six years. Through the reading program, Kid’s First staff will cover reading and writing material students are studying in school.

Each day, the kids will spend time with a Kid’s First volunteer or staff member as they expand on the topics the children are covering in their schools, Hawkins said. The center will also keep files on each child in the reading program, which will track the kids’ reading progress throughout the years.

“Learning doesn’t stop when the final bell rings at school,” Hawkins said. “I believe the things we are doing here will make a difference in these kid’s lives.

“Since we opened seven years ago, I’ve seen grades improve. But most importantly, I’ve seen attitudes improve,” Hawkins added.