PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — After-school programs have long been touted as a way to keep kids healthy, safe and off the streets after the final bell rings.
Now, the city’s Recreation & Parks Department has received federal funding to help area youth participate in activities that will give them both an education and exercise.
U.S. Sens. Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins announced recently that the U.S. Department of Education has awarded the Recreation & Parks Department $238,000 in federal grant money to establish an after-school arts and physical activity program that will begin in January.
Recreation & Parks Department Director Chris Beaulieu said Wednesday that the funding will allow the agency to partner with the Wintergreen Arts Center in Presque Isle to provide arts programs and other activities at arts center in the city’s downtown.
Beaulieu said participants in the program will be engaged in storytelling, illustration, drama, music, dance and other arts activities at the center.
The more physical activities will take place at the William V. Haskell Community Center. They will include sports such as soccer, basketball, tennis and swimming. In addition, the program will include KinderGym and Mini All Star Programs.
The funding will support the program for three years, from 2010 to 2013.
“We were very excited to receive the news and we cannot wait to get the program started,” Beaulieu said Wednesday. “This is three years of funding, and it will boost our current programs and allow us to collaborate with the Wintergreen Arts Center.”
The Wintergreen Arts Center, a nonprofit organization, is located at 149 State St.
The center offers art classes, performances and other popular seasonal events for children and adults. The facility attracts youth to draw, paint, make gingerbread houses and decorate pumpkins. Programs offered by the center remain ongoing while efforts are under way to raise money for renovations at the site.
Once that is complete, the new center will feature a children’s studio, a “PlayHouse” to be used for small theatrical and puppet show performances, and a fully furnished art studio in the rear of the building.
Beaulieu noted that the grant will help spread the word about the arts center while also reaching out to engage more youth in physical activities.
Right now, he explained, the Recreation & Parks Department offers arts and crafts to youth only during the summer. The federal funding and the new partnership will change that.
“We will definitely be able to reach out to more kids with this funding,” he said. “We are very excited to be able to include more kids in our programs and really get them engaged not just in physical things, but in artistic projects as well.”
Collins and Snowe also praised the effort.
“After-school programs have long provided a safe and engaging environment for children and youth during out-of-school hours,” they said in a joint statement. “We are pleased the U.S. Department of Education recognized Presque Isle Recreation & Parks’ qualifications for this award, which will promote art education and physical activities for children and their families within the Presque Isle community.”