11/5/2013 10:40:00 AM Pathways after school program receives Award of Excellence Program provides after school care, mentoring and educational opportunities to Native American youth
From left: Pathways’ Youth Coordinator Aaron Secakuku, Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence Board President Patricia Gillespie and Pathways’ Recreation Assistant Lin Tara Bedonie accept a certificate recognizing Pathways as a finalist for the Outstanding Afterschool Program award. Submitted photo
Loretta Yerian Navajo-Hopi Observer
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - On Nov. 2, Pathways Youth Program, an education and mentoring program for Native American youth located in Flagstaff, was one of three programs to receive recognition as one of the best after school programs in the state at the 2013 Arizona Afterschool Conference at the Phoenix Convention Center.
Pathways, a finalist for this year's Outstanding Afterschool Program, is affiliated with N.A.C.A. (Native Americans for Community Action).
Students from five elementary and middle schools in Flagstaff meet for after school and summer programs four days per week. Pathways, in operation for more than 20 years, offers students a place to go after school, helps the students with homework, puts on educational classes and workshops, schedules outings, and coordinates volunteer projects throughout the community.
Pathways gives kindergarten-sixth grade students a safe environment to grow and learn while their parents are at work or school. With 80 kids walking through the program's doors annually, parents have peace of mind knowing that their children are being cared for and educated. Pathways provides programs to educate kids through fun activities and interactive learning focused on healthy choices and lifestyles. Educators and volunteers provide education on relevant issues that students face and strive to equip them with knowledge that they will take with them for the rest of their lives.
Pathways is open from 2:20 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday. During that time, students gather to get help with their homework, work on craft projects and listen to programs offered by N.A.C.A. and various other volunteer groups.
One of Pathways' goals is to provide culturally appropriate substance abuse education for the kids.
"My children have developed a good routine on completing their homework every day," said one parent. "They have also recognized and become more aware of bad influences such as drugs, alcohol and tobacco. My children commented on how they can harm your body and have even told their relatives to stay away from them. As a parent, it is great to see that they feel this way at an early age."
According to Aaron Secakulu, Pathways youth coordinator, the program helps students learn how to make healthy choices and promotes a balanced life.
"We have programs that talk to the kids about health and nutrition and then we have people who give presentations on a variety of other topics," Secakuku said. "We recently had a program that taught the kids about nutrition and things like reading labels and cooking healthy snacks. But then again, today's lesson is on conflict resolution and anger management."
Staff members are always appreciative of the help they receive from volunteers.
"We have elders that come to help out. This year we have Glori Clark, who is teaching the students to knit." Secakuku said. "Northern Arizona University (NAU) also sends students from the Social Work 220 classes. They are interested in helping out and want to learn about native students and their cultures. They are a big help and serve as an extra pair of eyes, ears and hands."
Pathways makes learning fun by taking the students on outings that range from going hiking in Walnut Canyon to viewing ancient Pueblo ruins, traveling to a Diamondbacks game or more recently to see the Arizona Cardinals play.
Shandiin Sacakuku, a seventh grader, started going to Pathways when she was in the third grade. Now that she is one of the older students, she helps younger students and is considered a big help by staff and volunteers.
"Some of my friends come here and it's the only time I get to see them," Sacakuku said. "One of my favorite things is being able to go to the sporting events, they're a lot of fun."
"There are up to 30 to 40 percent of parents who have students attending Pathways from year to year, are working parents or parents attending NAU," Sacakuku said.
For students like Christopher John, this is their first time being part of a program like Pathways.
"I didn't know what it was," John said. "My mom works, so I started coming here. I like it, everything about it is fun."
John's older sister helped out with the summer program that Pathways provides and was able to connect her brother with Pathways as an after school alternative.
Pathways meets Monday through Thursday at Puente De Hozho Elementary School. More information is available from Secakuku at (928) 526-2968.