Students from BYU-Idaho gain more than just service hours while volunteering for an after-school program at Kershaw Intermediate School in Sugar City called Project Sugar.
“Project Sugar is a program where volunteers are needed to help out with Kershaw Intermediate’s after-school program,” according to the Student Activities Web page.
McKenna Wright, a sophomore majoring in international studies, said Project Sugar is a program for students from third to sixth grade who typically come from homes where the parents are divorced or not present.
Courtney Sandys, a sophomore studying early childhood education, said there are kids in the program who are there because their parents cannot be home with them during work hours or who do not have a good home environment available.
Wright said students are split into groups and there are four activities students can participate in.
She said the first rotation is 30 minutes for homework. The other three rotations are activities students in the program can choose from.
Some of the activities include art projects, sports, Xbox Kinect, dancing and board games, according to the Student Activities Web page.
“The activities are an opportunity for the kids to interact with each other,” Wright said. “Many of them are coming from broken homes, so they don’t know how to interact appropriately with other people. So, it is a time for them to develop as a person.”
Sandys said working with the students has been very rewarding.
“We are like mentors to them,” she said. “It is beautiful to see and experience.”
Wright said BYU-I volunteers are limited to eight students at a time so the children will not be overwhelmed by too many people.
“Project Sugar is a very simple project, but it’s important and needed,” Sandys said.
Wright said she and Sandys joined Project Sugar last semester.
“Project Sugar has affected my life in so many ways,” she said. “I love kids; I always have.”
She said that after she got back from teaching English abroad, she knew she would want to get involved someday with education.
She said she feels the kids’ love, and even if she is having a bad day, the students she helps can lift her mood.
“Getting to know the kids, getting to know who they are and why they are special, is my favorite part,” Sandys said.
She said this program helps her get excited to be a teacher one day.
“It is a way to get out there and do something I really love, and it makes me feel closer to my Heavenly Father,” Wright said.
She said she enjoys learning with the students at Kershaw Intermediate.
“Watching them retain what they are learning is fun for me,” she said.
Sandys said that when the volunteers see the kids happy and having fun it makes them feel happy too.
Wright said there is a sixth grade boy who recently had an experience that really touched her.
She said the little boy does not like to talk about his feelings to anyone.
“One day there was a third grade girl who is going though a hard time with her family and had no sense of self-worth,” she said.
She said the little boy sat with the little girl and started to give her compliments. He told her how beautiful she is and how far in life she will go because she is nice.
“This was a little boy who doesn’t like the ‘mushy gushy’ talk, and it didn’t matter that she was three years younger than him,” she said. “That is the type of bonding you will see and receive with Project Sugar.”
Sandys said some of the kids come from a rough home life but people would never be able to tell because they are so kind and sweet.
Wright said if students want to get involved, they do not have to sign up.
Students can meet by the roundabout Monday-Thursday at 3 p.m. near the Manwaring Center and the BYU-I Center. There is a university van that takes students to Sugar City.