SMILE program enriches kids’ education

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With school getting out and the hot summer months approaching, St. Rest Baptist Church is once again offering its SMILE program for kids.

The Summer Motivational Intensive Learning Experience program offers an array of activities from academics to field trips.
“It’s two months – June and July – and it will end July 31,” Elena Black, director, said. “We usually have a motivational speaker before they go to classes. We include art, and last year we had music. We try to do some cultural things as well.”

She says they do all sorts of things, like going to the Minden Recreation Center Complex to go swimming, field trips like going to Sci-Port, the zoo and movie time. Last year, the big field trip was one to Hot Springs, Arkansas to Magic Springs.
“We also have library day once a week,” she said. “They do reading and art projects as well. And we do physical education. We did little gardening boxes last year. We planted peppers, strawberries and tomatoes.”

One year, the kids got to make buttermilk.

“One year, we had whipping cream, and they made butter,” Bro. Ben Martin, pastor of St. Rest, said. “You take the whipping cream and you put it in a gallon jar and you shake it and you shake it and eventually you get butter.”

Black says they also teach social skills to help the kids cope better when they return to school.

SMILE started about five years ago to give the kids something to do and to get them off the streets, Martin says. The idea came from a program started in Atlanta, he says, and he started it in Minden.

“We had an advantage there,” he said. “We had several retired school teachers, and the English teacher had them actually do a scene from one of Shakespeare’s play. The director was a retired school teacher, and he had one kid that was so far behind in his reading that he couldn’t do well in class. So while everyone else was in class, he was one on one with him.”

Black says they have asked parents in the application where the weaknesses are so they can work with the children in areas of math, English and reading.

The cost of the program is $175 per child, $125 with each additional child. The fee covers everything they do during the summer, from breakfast and lunch to the field trips they take, Black says. The hours of operation are from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Breakfast and lunch will be provided by the summer feeding program, Black added.

SMILE will take place at the church’s multi-purpose building, located at the church at 611 East Union St.

For more information or questions, call Black at 318-465-1494 or Jonquez Moore at 318-422-6184.

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