Fresh from a day of school, the children came into the club in groups, all standing in a line waiting to be checked in at the Boys and Girls Club of Otero County in Alamogordo.
Today may have started out normally for the children participating in the afterschool programs at the Boys and Girls Club but today was different.
Lt. Gov. Howie Morales, a former teacher, visited the Club and played with the children including handing out snacks during snack time.
The visit was to see after school programs in action after $20 million was added to the state’s budget to help after school programs like Boys and Girls Club.
“We’re very thankful for the after school funding,” Boys and Girls Club of Otero County CEO Pamela Cisneros said. “We have kids who definitely couldn’t be here without it… It’s changed our program completely because of the kids that we can help. So we’re seeing kids that wouldn’t have been able to afford to be here before that really need us. They need that tutoring, the athletic time, the social time.”
The children were broken into groups mostly by age.
The kindergartners were about to start a crafts project when Morales visited the classroom while the third graders were building a town with blocks on the other side of the building.
The town included a car dealership and a McDonald’s.
“What about a school?” Cisneros asked.
The group responded negatively to the question.
While he visited with each group, Morales asked them what they liked the most and most of the students said they liked being outside.
“I think that that shows that the whole world is a classroom, outdoors as a classroom, as well as in the desk,” Morales said. “Having this opportunity for the students to learn and in an element that they feel safe, that they feel comfortable, and they really explore the opportunities to create a community within themselves.”
Boys and Girls Club in Alamogordo has students from ages 5 to 17 from different schools including those in Alamogordo Public Schools, students from Imago Dei Academy and some who are homeschooled.
“They’re able to come in here and to collaborate and to continue their learning. All while parents are at work, their children are safe and their children are engaging,” Morales said.
The visit came following the 2023 New Mexico Legislature’s $20 million appropriation to the Public Education Department for “out-of-school learning, summer enrichment, tutoring and programs to address learning gaps,” the General Appropriations Act states.
“The new funding comes at a critical time. Far too many of our children and youth are struggling today with serious issues impacting their mental health, learning, and futures,” Morales said in an op-ed submitted to the NM Political Report. “Young people are experiencing high rates of anxiety and depression. Despite the heroic efforts of educators across our state, many students are still struggling after the pandemic, and continue to be chronically absent from school.”