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June 24, 2018 10:18 PM

Keeping Kids Busy This Summer

It's summer time and students are out enjoying the freedom of school being out for a few months. While some kids choose to play games or hang by the pool, there are others who take part in some of the programs offered through the school district. 

This looks like chaos, but it's actually a team building, leadership exercise. It's all in the name of fun, learning, and competing.

"Well, I blew a vocal cord, so I feel like my team is in the running," Connections mentor, James Cagney said. 

This is all part of the Connections program. Each summer, the Sioux Falls School District hosts these 10 day sessions at each high school. The goal is to help kids heading into freshman year learn about what to expect at the next level.

Sammi: What do you think you'd be doing this summer if you weren't doing this program?
Marcus: Playing my game. Sitting at home. Fortnite. 

It's not just a good way to keep kids from wasting away in front of the TV. It's also a good opportunity to prepare for what's coming in a few weeks.

"Getting to meet new people. Learning a lot of stuff. Seeing where my classes are and getting to know around the building so I can help others," incoming freshman, Marcus Jackson said. 

"At first I was scared, like, when I come into this building I'm going to get lost. People were telling me since I'm short like I won't find my classes. And they're just like making me scared. But this program made me feel like it's okay. It will be okay. You know? I'll find everything easy," incoming freshman Agnes Kabwali said. 

"It relieves a lot of stress when it comes to finding our classes. Or like, you know, we get to meet new friends so that also relieves stress," incoming freshman Furtuna Beyen said. 

Sammi: What do you think the students get out of this program?
James: I think they get a great opportunity to learn high school and make a few upperclassmen friends when they come in and know the building. 

James Cagney will be a junior at Washington this fall. He's serving as a student mentor, helping lead the incoming freshmen by example.

Freshman Academy Coordinator, Todd Novak, says these kids play a crucial role.

"Because they are going to be face of Washington High School for these incoming freshmen. And they just do such a great job. They work hard and they and they contribute. We couldn't do it without them. Absolutely we could not do it without them,"  Novak said. 

Not only is the Connections program great for kids to have fun and make friends, it's also serving an academic purpose. The students read books, work on classroom projects, and at the end they receive a half credit for an elective in high school.

"I feel good about the credit. I feel really good about the credit," Beyen said. 

This session ended last week, but another will start in July. There are still a few slots left, and it comes highly recommended.

"Well you should definitely come. It really helps you. It like makes everything clear up and you ask questions that you don't know about and it's really good. You should come," Kabwali said. 

It's not just the kids and teachers noticing the difference this program makes. Novak says a custodian recently gave his kids high praise.

"That the kids are different. They're taking care of each other. And he doesn't attend what we talk about. And that's probably the best compliment I've ever received. To have this custodian, who watches these kids come to me and say, they're taking care of each other. And that was just awesome. That made my career," Novak said. 

For information on any open spots at Sioux Falls high schools, check out the district website for phone numbers.

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