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New after-school program helps kids connect and learn


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POSTED: Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Eighth-grader Jiawei Guan said he enjoys being a part of a free after-school program with other students at Kalakaua Middle School.

“;They can help me learn English,”; Guan said.

Guan, 13, who moved from China 10 months ago, was among the more than 100 students, teachers and administrators celebrating the formal opening yesterday of the After-School All-Stars program in Hawaii.

During the celebration at the Kalakaua cafeteria, some participating students played the ukulele and sang the song “;Mynah Bird,”; performed a dance to hip-hop music and served fresh cookies and mochi treats they had baked themselves.

The nationwide program—patterned after one started by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger—provides after-school activities to middle school students, including homework tutoring, sports and the performing arts.

As of this month the program is available after school from 3 to 6 p.m., but not on Furlough Fridays, at Kalakaua and Dole middle schools in Kalihi and King Intermediate School in Kaneohe.

Hawaii program Executive Director Dawn Dunbar said Jarrett and Washington middle schools have been approved to receive federal grants and are expected to participate in the program by early next year.

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Dunbar said the grants provide about $100,000 for each school, and the program needs to raise the rest through private and public contributions.

“;So we're always looking for contributors and partners to help us,”; Dunbar said.

A number of individuals and groups have already made contributions, including $70,000 from the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, $15,000 from the Atherton Family Foundation and $1,000 from Central Pacific Bank.

Dunbar said grants are generally awarded to schools in low-income neighborhoods with a higher population of “;at risk”; youths.

Ronn Nozoe, the complex-area superintendent for Farrington, Kaiser and Kalani high schools, said many of the students participating in the program at Kalakaua were learning English and not proficient in the English language.

“;In a typical setting, these are the kids who may not feel connected to schools. You could see today they were very connected,”; Nozoe said. “;It's really great.”;

More information about the program is available online at ASASHawaii.org.