Spring break initiative aims to keeps kids busy while out of school

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Spring break is a time when many Columbus students have extra time on their hands.  Columbus Recreation and Parks is working to make sure that spare time is put to good use.

The city is partnering with community organizations to offer lots of activities as part of a new initiative.  The School’s Out initiative brought various community organizations together like the Boys and Girls Club, Columbus Museum of Art, and COSI, amongst others with the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department.  Columbus Recreation and Parks Director Tony Collins says all these activities could spark a child’s interest and keep them engaged, “Once they identify that that’s who they are, then they have a motivation to keep coming back and to be involved in that.”  The groups are jointly publicizing all their activities together students and their families a robust set of activity options during the break.

Parent Chenara Cooper attended activities with her five children at the Barnett Recreation Center.  She says, “They get to have fun and learn different stuff so it is actually great and gives them something to do and at the same time it doesn’t cost anything. It’s wonderful.”  Her kids all enjoyed free lunch and an interactive, up close encounter with reptiles presented by Columbus Metro Parks.  Cooper adds, “They are always complaining that they are bored and this is actually a blessing for them.”

Simultaneously, Columbus Police is stepping up patrols this week as thousands of Columbus City Schools students enjoy their break.  The Spring Break Safety Initiative is designed to keep high-crime communities safe while also allowing officers to build positive relationships with Columbus youth. Columbus Police Spokesperson Denise Alex-Bouzounis says, “We are going to be interacting with kids so talking to them, interacting with them, having fun with them and trying to teach them the right way.”  CPD officers will attend various activities scheduled at the city’s recreation centers for the remainder of the week.  Columbus City Councilwoman Jaiza Page explains, “Our kids are out of school. They are looking for things to do throughout the week. As our officers are out in the community, they can have a conversation with our kids and really break down some of those barriers we see between certain communities and the police.”

Tammy Fournier-Alsaada of the People’s Justice Project works with at risk youth in Columbus.  She says the most troubled youth do not show up at rec centers.  She adds, “You can’t dream your way out of the problem. You can’t engage and get a relationship with the community over what ten days and it’s going to solve all these problems.”  Instead, Fournier-Alsaada says any long term solutions requires police to admit there is a disconnect between the community and law enforcement.

Parent Chenara Cooper says she is grateful for recreation and parks programming.  Cooper thinks it would be a great chance for her oldest, two teen boys, to interact with officers first hand, “It gives people an opportunity to learn how law enforcement works outside of television.  The police are there to help…and getting to know the community. I think that is actually a wonderful idea.”

To learn more about Columbus Recreation and Parks School’s Out initiative go to https://www.columbus.gov/schoolsout/

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