Neighborhood club growing

By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
Staff Writer

The Hyde Park Neighborhood Club is continuing to add new programs that supplement its After School Learning Lab program.

“We offer continuity across childhood offerings that work for each age,” said Sarah Diwan, director of Early Childhood Programs at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club.

High School Programs

The HPNC is offering scholarships to girls from low-income families who want to join its girl’s basketball team for 6th to 8th grade and girl’s junior roller derby team for ages 12 to 17. The club is hoping that the teams and the scholarships will interest more teen girls into playing sports.

When it comes to playing sports, “most girls become spectators after the 5th grade,” said Jennifer Bosch, executive director at HPNC, 5480 S. Kenwood Ave.
“We want to encourage them to cultivate their skills,” Bosch said.

She said when the HPNC’s teen after-school programs started, the boys would play basketball and the girls would sit around and watch.

Being in after-school sports also keeps them busy during the hours between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., which are considered critical times of the day for school children who are old enough to have a greater level of independence and are often not supervised by adults.

As money gets tighter for schools, athletic budgets get cut and sports participation fees get passed on to the families, according to an article in the May 2012 issue of sciencedaily.com. The article states that among lower-income families, those earning less than $60,000 per year, 19 percent said their children’s participation decreased because of costs. But among families earning more than $60,000 per year, only 5 percent reported costs had caused their children to participate less.

Bosch said the HPNC received a grant from the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority (IVPA) to help support the scholarships.

“The IVPA is a big advocate of the benefits girls get from playing sports such as learning negotiation skills, gaining self-esteem and having a support system that can help them manage their anger and avoid domestic violence situations,” Bosch said.

The teen group as a whole has launched a blog titled “F.A.C.E.S. (Food, Arts, Community, Education and Sports) of the Neighborhood” where they learn journalism, photography and blog design skills. They are also in the beginning stages of creating a business plan for a snack cart, which will offer healthy food choices.

Middle School Programs

New middle school (5th to 9th grade) programs include Shakespeare’s Youth of Hyde Park (SYHP), which is a not-for-profit acting troupe founded by Lincoln Brown, who is a teacher at Murray Language Academy. The group is affiliated with the Theater Outreach Program of the University of Chicago.

CircEsteem is a program that gives kids the opportunity to “clown around” while developing balance, flexibility and hand-eye coordination through learning skills such as juggling, plate spinning, globe walking and tight wire.

Early Childhood Programs

The Hyde Park Neighborhood Club will be hosting a Valentine’s Day Fundraiser in order to raise money to purchase new toys for its Tot Lot.

The Tot Lot, which has been a part of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club’s (HPNC) services since it opened to the community in 1909, is an indoor playground with tricycles, climbing structures and wooden push toys for children ages 1 to 4.

The fundraiser will take place during regular Tot Lot hours from 10 a.m. to noon on Thursday, Feb. 14 at the HPNC. The club is collecting $5 donations that will be used to purchase new toys.

“We’re hoping that community members who’ve known or been involved with Tot Lot will also stop by to see how it’s grown and changed over the years,” Diwan said.
In addition to its usual play options there will be Valentine’s Day-related crafts, face painting and healthy snacks.

Diwan said the Tot Lot holiday celebrations began in 2012 during Halloween.

“People with young children love holidays,” Diwan said. “It’s a time to get dressed up in costumes and it’s very exciting for kids.”

Diwan said the Tot Lot program has been a longtime favorite at the HPNC because not only do the kids get to play it’s also a great place for parents and care givers to socialize.

“We have people that tell us that they met their best friends here,” Diwan said. “Their kids are grown but they have remained friends.”

The program options for early childhood at the HPNC has expanded in the last year to include yoga for young children, sign language and a blocks and imagination play group where toddlers learn pre-math and cognitive skills.

“We have developed a mentally well-rounded program for young children,” Diwan said.

d.phillips@hpherald.com