Sunday, November 28, 2021

Y’s ASPIRE Makes Learning Fun

Submitted PhotoChildren in the Y’s ASPIRE program with counselor Hali Telashmet

Submitted PhotoChildren in the Y’s ASPIRE program with counselor Hali Telashmet


Dozens of young students are again benefitting from ASPIRE, a long-running Marco Y program that seeks to motivate and stimulate students from kindergarten to fifth grade by making after-school fun.

ASPIRE stands for After School Program for Inspiration, Recreation and Education. The program serves children from Tommie Barfield Elementary School, Parkside Elementary School and Manatee Elementary School.

Each year the Y expands and makes changes, improving the overall program and catering it to the needs of students and their families.

This year students will have computers available for them to complete homework assignments, something that they may not have at home.

YMCA School Age Director Charlene Garcia says that some Marco students are as needy as those in the more modest areas of East Naples serviced by Parkside and Manatee Elementary schools. “You might not believe it, but some TBE kids don’t have computers,” Garcia said.

Enter this computer access, which Garcia says fits another component of the ASPIRE program, an educational emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The Y’s marketing coordinator, Caitlin Porter, is also a tech specialist, Garcia said, and added that Porter’s duties will later expand in the tech area. “We’re looking at components like digital photography, movie making and video creation,” Garcia said. All three sites will benefit from Porter’s expertise.

As for the “tailoring” of other activities for the three sites, Garcia said Manatee students seem to love music, so their activities include dancing and singing.  Parkside, on the other hand, leans towards the visual arts, so clay molding is offered.

“The idea is to reach every type of child,” Garcia said.

Program leaders provide regular reports, and Mariallane Multidor (Parkside) said there was plenty of excitement about the Kid of the Week program.

Group counselors nominate kids who’ve exhibited exemplary character and role model qualities, and one name is drawn from a hat. Rewards are a ribbon, the choice of an item from a “treasure box,” and having their photo posted on a parent board.

Garcia said there’s plenty of room for more TBE students, and an added attraction is the availability of the Y’s variety of facilities – the pool, airnasium gym, field space and tennis courts. In addition, kids with off-campus activities, such as karate, are transported to their destinations, saving parents an additional trip.

The cost of the program is $50 a week for non-Y members, and $45 for members. To learn more visit or call 239-394-3144.

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