New place to chill: ASAP provides middle school students food, help, activities

December 2012 Posted in Community
After School Activities Program
Immanuel Lutheran Church, 303 N. Church St.
Beginning Jan. 8, Tuesdays and Thursdays,
3 – 6 p.m. Register, donate, volunteer or
for information:,
e-mail or call 503-873-2044.

By Brenna Wiegand

Middle school students will no longer have the excuse there is nothing to do after school and no where to go – at least on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Local churches have teamed up to launch an after school program for the students of Mark Twain Middle School.

The After School Activities Program (ASAP) is headquartered at Immanuel Lutheran Church.

“Being just two blocks from Mark Twain Middle School, those at the church have a daily view of the students walking by – and being distracted,” said Ashley Orr, ASAP’s onsite coordinator.

The program grew out of Silverton Ministerial Association meetings, where Immanuel Pastor Leah Stolte-Doerfler brought up the need for a fun, safe place where the kids could hang out after school.

A former middle school teacher, Orr was thrilled to join the project.

“This is a pivotal time in adolescent development; personally my favorite age and stage,” Orr said. “They are full of creativity and curiosity, aspiration and analysis, wit, charm and humor…”

But it’s also a stage of vulnerability, where every young person is at risk of being introduced to dangerous behaviors and influenced by intense peer pressure.

“This age group has a sincere need to feel loved, respected, heard and valued,” Orr said. “Studies show that kids are most likely to get in trouble between 3-6 p.m. – hence our hours of operation.”

“It’s tough for middle school kids to find things to do after school that are productive, that are supervised and safe,” said Dandy Stevens, principal at Mark Twain.

“I think having this facility right up the hill will be a great connection for kids to feel like there are people in the community who care about them; care about their academic success and also just want to give them a safe place to go,” Stevens added.

She likes the tutoring aspect, especially since students can access their assignments online.

Stevens said as they began brainstorming about the program last year, the group decided to provide short messages introducing character traits such as self-advocacy, respect and addressing situations middle school students may encounter.

Just as important for the kids, she added, is the opportunity to relax, visit with friends and take part in other enjoyable activities.

“I think, after word gets out that it’s not necessarily a church or religious-based activity, that it’s welcoming to any Mark Twain student, it will grow like wildfire,” Stevens said. “They’ve been very purposeful about what they bring to the table – especially food: middle school kids are always hungry.”

The core ASAP group includes representatives from Saint Paul’s Catholic Church, United Methodist, Immanuel Lutheran and Silverton First Christian Church.

Each church heads up an area of the program’s four components – food, activities, tutoring/homework help and positive behavior emphasis. Orr has been taking the idea to other local congregations in hopes of garnering further support for the undertaking.

“We have a unique community, willing to come together to create positive programs to resolve community issues and concerns,” Orr said.

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