When the last bell rings at 3 p.m. the day is over at most schools. But at Ignacio Zaragoza Elementary, the day is only beginning.

Due to the Girls Scouts Tejas Council, Dallas Park and Recreation Department and several teachers who volunteer their time, on any day as many as 200 to 400 students will be at the school participating in free after school activities.

Students can choose from the Girls Scouts’ Super Kids program, Boy Scouts or Computer Courses, piano lessons, a Folklorico Dance Troupe, a Woodshop or the Z-Teen social service club – all sponsored by teachers who volunteer their time for the programs.

Most activities wind down around 5 p.m., when parents pick-up their children after work. But the Park and Recreation Department will leave the gym open until 10 p.m. for neighborhood children to play in.

Ann Bennett, librarian of the school, says the school, which is located at Worth and Carroll, has more than 900 students and is located in a low-income neighborhood. More than 90 percent of the students are Hispanic and about 50 percent participate in Bilingual and English as a Second Language courses. Despite the challenges the teaching staff have, Bennett says they will not let that stop them from providing the students the education they need.

“We just like kids,” Bennett says. “And we see the kids like it.”

“Most of them really feel like they’re contributing to a child’s education. They’re really making a difference.”

Last year the school had 68 volunteers – many of which were teachers – logged 2,419 hours, Bennett says. The school’s teachers saved the district $14,400 in volunteer tutoring, she added.

The Girl Scouts Super Kids program recently won a state award for one of the best after-school programs for homeless children. In addition to Zaragoza students, it serves children from two nearby homeless shelters. The program is offered every day from 3-5 p.m. and provides children a snack, arts and crafts, tutoring and recreational activities.

Georgia McCarter, program director of the Super Kids, works for Girl Scouts Tejas Council. She says the program started four years ago when the Girl Scouts realized Zaragoza needed more than troupes and set up the after school program, which is the council’s only program that serves boys as well as girls, McCarter says.

In the last four years, McCarter says she witnessed rebellious children come under control since participating in the program. And some of the older children were steered away from gangs because of the after-school programs.

“They feel like they belong,” McCarter says. “They have some place they feel comfortable.”

Most of the school’s programs are based on donations. The school needs dance shoes and guitars for the Folklorico Dance Troupe and refrigerators for the teachers’ work room.

The school’s Folklorico Dance Troupe can be seen this month on Sept. 15 at Pikes Park, Sept. 16 at the Central Library and Sept. 24 at St. Thomas Aquinas. For information about the performances or to help the school, call 841-5260.

News & Notes

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED: Lipscomb Elementary is participating in the Communities in Schools program, which provides services to at-risk students and their families. Volunteers are needed for tutoring, mentoring, speaking and planning special events. For information, call 827-0955.

FIRST MEETING: Lakewood Early Childhood PTA will hold its first general meeting Sept. 15 at 9:30 a.m. at the Lakewood Country Club. Lakewood Elementary’s principal Karen Rogers will be the guest speaker.

STONEWALL’S OUTDOOR STAGE: This summer, Stonewall Jackson Elementary’s parent volunteers built an outdoor stage and learning center. The stage will be used for assemblies and performances. It was designed by parent John Q. Hess of F. Brown and Associates. Construction was coordinated by parent Edward Newell of EFN Construction. Parents contributed 350 hours for this project.

TALENTED STUDENT: J.L. Long Middle School eighth grader Emily Cunningham recently received state recognition in the Talent Search for Mathematically and Verbally Gifted seventh graders based on PSAT scores. The search was conducted last spring by Duke University.

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