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Same program, new funding source

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By Don Pace

Federal stimulus money is being put to use in a number of areas in Las Vegas, including enabling kids on the west side of town to participate in summer activities that wouldn’t be available otherwise.

This year, the district didn’t receive funding through the 21st Century Program.

Director Elaine Martinez-Gonzales and Assistant Director Gary Luna say that even though the funding source has changed, the spirit of the program remains as it has since 2002.

“Everything we do revolves around math, science and reading, whether it’s nutrition, art or even physical education,” Luna said.

Luna, a licensed social worker, intervenes should any issues arise among the more than 150 students participating in the summer program. He also teaches a guitar class.  

Martinez-Gonzales said the program is open to children from kindergarten through the fifth grade, with middle school students participating in community service activities.

Martinez-Gonzales said while the little kids are learning about nutrition, creative writing, chess, dance, art, guitar and fitness, the middle school students are involved in doing good works around town.

“Our sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders go into the nursing homes to interact with the residents, doing puzzles, reading and generally keeping them company and brightening up their day,” Martinez-Gonzales said.

Martinez-Gonzales said Loretta Martin, the director at the city’s recreation center, has opened the center’s doors for afternoon swimming classes.

Martinez-Gonzales said without the stimulus money, the program probably wouldn’t have gotten off the ground this year.

“We have always served a lot of kids, and I’m really happy that we are still able to provide the summer activities this year using stimulus money. Stimulus funds will also help us sustain our after-school program in the fall when the students are back in school,” she said.

The West Las Vegas Schools summer program runs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and children are served a healthful breakfast and lunch.