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SumMEr WEdge comes to an end after a successful summer

SumMEr WEdge kept students active over the summer months. (Submitted photo)

Hastings’ SumMEr WEdge program came to an end last week after working to help students who don’t get a lot of support during the summer months.

The program was developed by Sara Lawrence and Jacqueline Valek, former Promise Fellows at Hastings Middle School. It is a continuation of their Promise Fellows work, they said.

“SumMEr WEdge started out of the desire to continue work with the Promise Fellow students last year,” said Lawrence, now the youth development and youth enrichment coordinator for Hastings Community Education. “I actually served as a Promise Fellow at Hastings Middle School and Jacqueline Valek and I were just talking about what it would look like to continue supporting students that we worked with into the summer months.”

And so they made it happen. After writing a proposal for a grant through the United Way of Hastings, they received funding to support kids who were considered at-risk in two of three areas: academics, behavior or attendance.

The program was inspired by ME to WE, an international organization that inspires people to “become leaders and agents of change,” according to its website.

Promise Fellows are served by those who are with the AmeriCorps, a national and community service corporation. Hastings Middle School is one of the locations in which those involved can serve. AmeriCorps is also affiliated with the Minnesota Alliance with Youth, an organization promoting youth development.

Various Hastings organizations support the Promise Fellows such as Hastings Middle School, Hastings Community Education, the YMCA of Hastings and the United Way of Hastings.

According to Lawrence, each Promise Fellow serves 30 at-risk children.

“A lot of these kiddos don’t have support in the summer months. They don’t have activities going on, they don’t have a safe place to go to, they aren’t provided with food programs and support in the summer,” she said.

The HMS SumMEr WEdge program, which started in early June, offered eight weeks of programming running three days a week: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Registration was open to Promise Fellow students and there was a fee of $20, to cover the cost of T-shirts and other costs. Full scholarships were available.

The children met at HMS where lunch was provided through MEALS, a local free lunch program.

Activities included games and field trips to places such as the Science Museum of Minnesota, Carpenter Nature Center and Valleyfair.

“This is something I’m so proud of, it’s so cool,” Lawrence said. “Really just offering that safe place and fun activities to keep the kids engaged during the summer.”

The program, which ends on Thursday, Aug. 11, has one more field trip in store: a trip to Sea Life at the Mall of America.

Aside from field trips, the children also participated in various community service acts with Project Gratitude, Feed My Starving Children, Carpenter Nature Center and Free the Children.

While the program is great for kids in need, there is no guarantee that the program will be run next summer as another grant needs to be applied for.

“This is something I would love to see continue,” Lawrence said.