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Board elects to fund Best SELF-for now

The Sunnyside School Board elected to continue its annual funding of the Yakima County Best SELF summer youth program during its February meeting.

The board will continue to provide the same $5,500 in funding it has for Best SELF, which is struggling for financial support.

Best SELF is a summer program open to students in grades kindergarten through fifth. Best SELF was funded by Yakima County to the tune of $160,000 when it originally began four or five years ago. The county has reduced its financial contribution of the program for the past several years, recently deciding to end funding for the program all together because of budget constraints.

The Best SELF program recently received some good news as two Lower Valley school districts, Grandview and Mabton, committed to the program for this year.

"We think we are set to let Best SELF have one more summer," said Sunnyside School District Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole.

Cole said that he made it known to Best SELF officials that the program needs to find some way to work in partnership with the summer school program the district offers.

Cole did tell the school board that he is concerned with the fact that Yakima County has ended its funding for the Best SELF program.

"She (Best SELF director Judy Jacobsen) is basically (doing) fund-raising to keep this program going," said Cole.

He did say that the program would continue to operate, even if Sunnyside didn't decide to renew its partnership.

The neighboring Grandview School District will be contributing $6,000 to the program and the use of four classrooms. Mabton School District will be paying for the site director, $6,277, and the use of between three and four classrooms. The program will be offered in the Zillah School District, where Best SELF will receive $1,500 and the use of two classrooms. The Yakima School District will pay $15,00 for the summer program and the use of eight classrooms.

The $5,500 Sunnyside is paying for the program will go for the salaries of one coordinator, four certificated teachers and eight college assistants. The school district will also be making several in-kind contributions, including providing breakfast, lunch and snacks for the program and transportation.

This year's Best SELF program in Sunnyside will be held at Pioneer Elementary School June 20 through July 29.

Sunnyside School Board member Lorenzo Garza was concerned what would happen if the program didn't fill all of its allotted slots for students.

Cole said it is difficult not to fill all of the slots in the program. Best SELF offers a sliding fee, ranging from $75 to $250, to help assist people in paying for the program. Cole also said the Best SELF adjusts what it offers to the number of children who registered for the program.

"This is a really wonderful program," said Juan Alaniz, who is the site coordinator for the program at Pioneer Elementary School.

Alaniz said Best SELF helps children develop their social skills and teaches them the importance of being involved in the community.

"It gives them a sense of being more than just at school," said Alaniz.

Board member Steve Carpenter spoke to children in the Best SELF program last year and found it to be an effective partnership between all the entities involved. Carpenter said he would be interested in comparing the progress of children in the program to those who are not.

The board approved entering into the contract with Best SELF, giving the summer program at least one more year in the district.

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