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Afterschool Program Flourishes At Riverbank Schools
The Afterschool Program started as "a kind of baby sitting program to safeguard and entertain latchkey children" who were released from school around 3 p.m., long before their parents would be home from work, often not until 5 p.m. or 6 p.m.

In the more than 10 years since it came to Riverbank, however, it has grown to embrace a variety of activities, has a program going at all five schools of the Riverbank Unified School District, and looks after hundreds of children every weekday.

Sometimes known as Project A.C.T.I.O.N, standing for Afterschool Care Together In Our Neighborhoods, it is run by scores of advisors and aides working out of the Casa del Rio Family Resource Center on Stanislaus Street but has a program tailored to each school and grade level.

Led by program director Esther Rosario, advisors for the schools are Angela Bailey-Gabrie at Riverbank Language Academy, Bianca Lopez at Mesa Verde School, Monica Villareal at California Avenue School and Paul Corona, who handles both Cardozo Middle School and Riverbank High.

Each program divides the afterschool hours into a snacktime - to refuel the youngsters' spirits and energy - physical education activities, a homework period and academic enrichment classes.

At Mesa Verde, for example, this past Friday, the children were racing around the playground in outdoor physical activity until 3 p.m., bent over their desks and poring over homework for another half an hour, and then dispersed in classes like music, arts and crafts and cultivating indoor plants for another hour.

Balls and Tracks as part of a program called S.T.E.N. standing for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math has created a lot of excitement on Fridays this month. Aiming to make science fun, the science and engineering project offers a playful way to investigate the behavior of a marble rolling down a sloping track made of pipe insulating rolls split into half.

Students discover how the speed of the marble down the track and how far it flies off the end, like a ski jumper, are related to the length, angle, height and shape of the track, according to the project instructions. They also explore "how to keep the marble safely on track as it speeds up and over hills or around curves and loops in the track," said officials.

Things don't always go according to plan. On a recent day, Lopez was planning to transplant some greenery at Mesa Verde from their pots into pierced two-ounce soda bottles to form a living tapestry for the classroom wall. But not enough students and parents contributed bottles. So that project was delayed.