Local organizations donate to Middle School after-school program

Published 9:12 am Tuesday, October 6, 2015

(Submitted photo)

(Submitted photo)

When it comes to investing in the success and future of Dowagiac’s youth, local educators aren’t going it alone.

Two local organizations recently came forward to once again pledge their support for Dowagiac Middle School’s Five Star after-school program, with the Dowagiac branch of Honor Credit Union donating $2,500 and the Dowagiac Optimist Club contributing another $500 to the cause late last month. The contributions will go toward the continuation of the weekly children’s event, which kicked off its fall season last week, said middle school Principal Matt Severin.

The middle school has hosted the after-school program, ran by Elkhart-based nonprofit Five Star Living, for the past four years, the principal said. The program costs around $25,000 every year to operate, with the middle school responsible for shouldering $5,000 of the costs, Severin said.

“That money comes from the support of the community every single year,” he said. “We have some very generous donors who are helping us take care of our kids.”

Honor and the Optimists have both been longtime supporters of Five Star, along with other community organizations like the Dowagiac Schools Foundation and the Dowagiac Rotary Charitable Foundation, Severin said.

“We were very excited to jump on board [four years ago], and we’ve been really excited with what we’ve seen from year to year to year,” said Branch Manager Janie Reifenberg, with Dowagiac Honor Credit Union.

The program, which takes place on Mondays after class, helps build academic and social skills of the children who participate. According to an internal study conducted at the middle school, students enrolled in the program generally enjoy better grades and attendance than those who are not, the principal said.

Sixty-four students are currently enrolled in this current season, separated into eight teams, each led by a “coach,” an adult volunteer from the community.

As someone who works with students each and every day of the school year, Severin said it’s wonderful to see Dowagiac organizations and individuals spend their time and money to help support local children through the program.

“It’s not just us taking care of our kids — the entire community is a part of it,” Severin said.

People interested in contributing or volunteering for Five Star are encouraged to contact Severin, at (269) 782-4440.