I write to let people know about, and show support for, a program that has greatly benefited my family, and that greatly benefits our community. The 21st Century Community Learning Centers is a program operating in our local public schools that offers primarily middle school students (as well as students at Blue Ridge, Lincoln High School students and ninth-graders at Walla Walla High School) after-school and summer activities that enrich their learning and development.  

Importantly, these programs also help working families who may need safe and nurturing places for their students to go during the summer and after school. My son has participated in the after-school program at Pioneer Middle School as well as the Summer 2016 multiweek program at Garrison. 

It would be easy for me to say that his learning was enriched and his interest was piqued by being able to spend time with great education professionals and students on topics such as filmmaking, creative writing, children’s literature, 3-D printing and engineering. 

But that’s only part of it. When I chatted with other parents this past summer about what the multiweek Garrison program did in particular, they talked about how their kids made new friends who lived all the way across town. They raved about how their kids were talking about reading as an enjoyable thing for the first time in their lives. They lauded the program that gave their children a place to be that was safe, supervised, and convenient. 

This last point was especially poignant for parents who were working multiple jobs and whose time and resources were so strapped that they could not otherwise figure out what to do to provide these things for their children, especially in the summer. 

As an educator, I’d like to offer high praise for 21st CCLC because participating students learn the importance of community and responsibility, and the activities bridge academic work (done flexibly and with student interests in mind) with the development of the whole person. 

The 21st Century Program meets needs of working families, and gives students opportunities (and free meals) in order to help them grow and thrive. Join me in applauding a Walla Walla program that works to give our young people and their families safe and enriching opportunities. 

  Michelle Janning

 Walla Walla