Wednesday, January 16, 2013
The Extra Mile Student Center in Grandview is in its second year of operation.
Operating the center are Gene and Kathy Iwami, who opened the center in an effort toward helping youth in the community succeed in life.
The couple were the featured speakers at Wednesday's Sunnyside Daybreak Rotary Club meeting.
Mr. Iwami said he began seeing adults involved in open gym programs who were once successful athletes in school. Some of those adults, he said, graduated high school without a plan and that gave Iwami an idea for reaching out to today's youngsters.
He and his wife began seeking a location for the student center and space was donated to the organization.
The center opened in October 2011 and the Iwamis said more than 700 students have registered there.
The students served at the Extra Mile Student Center are in grades 7-12, and an average of 45 students are served each day.
The couple said one of the programs offered by the center, Success Connection, is a mentorship/tutoring program. Through the program, youngsters are matched with adult volunteers. Those volunteers show the youngsters that someone believes in them and cares about them, according to Mrs. Iwami.
Mr. Iwami said approximately 45 percent of the households in Grandview are single-parent homes. That is higher than the 30 percent national average.
"We provide this place with the idea of providing a family atmosphere," said Mrs. Iwami.
Mr. Iwami told the Rotarians he and his wife were surprised by the number of youngsters who use the center and stay through the dinner hour.
They were unaccustomed to parents not expecting their children home for dinner.
However, Mr. Iwami said, they have learned a lot of parents are happy the children have a safe place to be. The Iwamis have learned to adapt their way of thinking because of the experiences they have had since opening the center.
"We learned the youngsters feel comfortable," said Mr. Iwami, noting one of the goals of the Extra Mile Student Center is to provide a safe environment for youth in the community.
Mrs. Iwami said, "Our dream was to get the community involved."
She said she used to hate it when she heard the phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child." That's because, as a mother, she believed it was her responsibility to raise her own children.
Mrs. Iwami said she has learned that not every parent has time or resources for their families. Not every child has an ideal home and often they crave attention.
The Iwamis said the community can help the youngsters served by the Extra Mile Student Center in several different ways.
The easiest way, said Mr. Iwami, is by spreading the word about the center. He said the center has a Facebook page that is updated periodically.
Mrs. Iwami said baked goods are welcome during the center's operational hours and the youngsters appreciate the gesture.
Supplies, volunteering to help out at the center and joining the Success Connection are other ways community members can get involved.
Financial donations, too, are accepted by the non-profit organization.
Mrs. Iwami said the center carefully selects grants for some of its funding, but many grants come with restrictions.
"We don't want to rely on grants...we want to be community supported," she said, stating the community's involvement is vital toward meeting the goal of showing Grandview's youth that people care.