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It's a brand new school year and in all of our communities, children are making the transition from easy-going summer fun to school time structure and learning. Of course, there's plenty of fun to be had in the learning process…it's all in the approach. That's why the Adventure Center program, provided by Parents with a Purpose to our communities at Walton Village, Walton Reserve, Walton Crossing and Walton Ridenour, provides such a vital service to our parents and our children. Since their program is faith-based, it encompasses body, mind and spirit, and seeks to provide an exciting, fun and enriching environment for elementary school students who live in those communities after school. It's a great help to the parents, too. The program is offered free of charge to these residents…all they are asked to do is provide enough snacks each month for 20 children. That's a small price to pay for all the value they are receiving in the Center.

So much more than "after school care", the Adventure Centers make learning fun. This year's theme is "All Creatures Great and Small", and it's all about animals and their different habitats. All kids love animals, and with all the fun games, crafts and other creative learning tools, they hardly realize how much they are learning! Add to this the amazing community partnerships that provide dance classes, sports programs, mentoring, tutoring, art and more, and you have a recipe for success. For example, a professor from Kennesaw State University is heading up a program to identify deficiencies that our children have in reading and devising a program individualized to their specific needs. This year, regular tutors will join the team, spending time working one on one with children with the goal that every child in our Centers will be reading on grade level or above by the 3rd grade — an important milestone. It's exciting to think how many lives might be changed by this alone!

Creative Learning Atlanta is another partner. They began working with children in one Center last year and are expanding their scope this year to include all four Centers. They offer our children a tremendous gift — dance lessons free of charge to children who otherwise would likely not be able to afford such an extravagance. And what do they learn? Ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop…you name it. And, at the end of the year, they will celebrate all that they have learned by hosting a dance recital, complete with full costumes.

Volunteers from all over come and spend time with the children in our Centers, helping with homework or reading, playing games and just "hanging out". A precious group of ladies from Roswell Street Baptist Church meet weekly with kids at Walton Ridenour's Adventure Center to teach them how to sew. From a humble start, where the ladies just planned to do "one project" with the kids, they now cannot wait to see "their" children. The Center is even equipped with sewing machines now. Another group from Roswell Street Baptist Church provides cooking classes to kids and parents at Walton Village. And, after they prepare a meal or a treat, they all sit down together to eat it and enjoy one another's company. Football players and cheerleaders from Mt. Paran Christian School have adopted the Walton Ridenour Adventure Center and visit them regularly to play games with them and have fun together. Mt. Paran's Spanish Honor Society takes time out of their week to help kids with their homework. The Northwest Family YMCA provides sports programs and mentors to kids at Walton Ridenour, and the kids at Walton Crossing benefit from mentors from nearby Orange Hill Baptist Church. A resident of the Legacy at Walton Village teaches children there how to knit and crochet and another provides art lessons.

Adventure Center Directors and Coaches are carefully selected and screened in order to provide the best role models to the children. And several times each year, the team spends time learning together so that they can be well-informed messengers of the truth. They are learning right alongside the kids, and that makes everyone just a little bit better.

The program provided by Parents with a Purpose is rich. And, while it is free, it is not cheap. Everyone benefits from the participation of so many people from the community and our parents appreciate the positive influences provided to their children who might otherwise come home to an empty apartment. The Adventure Centers do a great job of coming alongside parents to help "train a child up in the way he should go".

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