Army expands military after-school program to two new middle schools

Children at Richardson Elementary School play human foosball while participating in Army Youth Programs in Your Neighborhood on Dec. 5. Photo by Leonel Monroy, EPISD.

Children at Richardson Elementary School play human foosball while participating in Army Youth Programs in Your Neighborhood on Dec. 5. Photo by Leonel Monroy, EPISD.

By Reneé de Santos, El Paso Independent School District:

(El Paso, Texas, Dec. 14, 2017)

Army Youth Programs in Your Neighborhood got a $130,000 boost from the Army to continue funding after-school programs at nine El Paso Independent School District campuses.

AYPYN, which has been funding after school activities in EPISD since 2011, added Hornedo Middle and middle school students from MacArthur Intermediate to further serve military family members. The board approved funding for the 2017-18 school year during the November board meeting.

“The grant allows students to have a place to hang out after school with their friends in a safe and secure environment and it gives them an opportunity to play together and have fun,” said Frank Ordoñez, Richardson coordinator, Dec. 5.

RossFit, human foosball, clubs, intramural sports, tutoring and AP study sessions are among the games and programs funded through AYPYN.

Ross, Bassett, Canyon Hills and Richardson middle schools and Andress, Chapin and Austin high schools round out the nine AYPYN campuses. The after-school programing is available to all students at the nine campuses. However, funding is based only on the number of military students participating.

At Richardson, students lined up foosball-style for a human version of the arcade game. The new option at Richardson challenges students’ soccer and teamwork skills as they stay in place holding onto a pole to mimic the traditional game inside the gym.

“They’re having a blast with it. The students have to use their soccer skills and work together to score,” Ordoñez said. “We also added giant Uno and giant dominos for the kids to play with this year.”

Kira Nowell, a Richardson eighth-grader, took a break from the back-and-forth action on the gym floor to head to the weight room. She’s experienced weight loss and beefed up her athletic game by participating in AYPYN programs.

“I’m a transfer student and didn’t really know anybody,” she said. “I started with the competitive ways and got to know people. I kept going and realized I was getting better than last year. I made the basketball team and then I made the track team.”

Kira also sees how the program sparks camaraderie and participation in school.

“It changes your attitude towards school,” she said. “You start thinking, ‘I got to be there because I got that today.’”

Hornedo and MacArthur are working on creating programming that benefits the middle-school students on their respective campuses.

“AYPYN will allow us to offer additional after-school programming to all of our students and give our military-connected students more opportunities to integrate, become an active part of our campus and feel more included in our community,” said Hornedo Principal Micaela Varela.

The campus will be offering after-school activities to include robotics, a STEAM club, karaoke club and intramural activities. Hornedo also expects to open an internet café for students to do homework.

“We will continue to offer a wide variety of after-school activities for our students and will also expand opportunities for our students,” Varela said. “We are grateful for this additional source of support for our students.”