All kids welcome at Jack's After School Program in Pratt

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
Jack’s After School Program director Ryan Landry (back left) and assistant Ashley Austin (back right) watch closely as students D’Adrian Garrett (front left) and Matthew James (front right) battle it out in rock, paper, scissors to determine which captain picks his teammates first for a game of Capture the Flag on Thursday afternoon at Blythe Family Fitness.

From 3:45 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., every Tuesday and Thursday, more than 20 fourth-eighth grade students from Pratt show up at Blythe Family Fitness to have fun. They are part of Jack’s After School Program that has been going strong for the past 10 years or so at the fitness center, according to executive director Kristina Kaufman.

“We’ve been so blessed to have the kids coming back in again,” Kaufamn said. “We have great sponsors in the Peoples Bank Heartland Foundation and Pratt Public Library. They make it possible for this to happen.”

What happens is that area kids have a place to unwind after school, have fun, eat snacks, play games and just be kids, all while being monitored by caring supervisors.

“I’ve done this for three years now,” said Ryan Landry, program director. “”We are unplugged here, no electronics or phones. We help them play together, learn to communicate, if we have shy ones, we help them to speak out more, learn to use their own voices.”

Landry said that for $20 a month, all kids were welcome to try out Jack’s After School Program if they were in fourth to eighth grade.

“We always have room for more,” he said.

Landry said attendance scholarships were available through the Pratt Public Library, where recommendations were made by library personnel who are involved with area kids through school and community activities.

Last Thursday, two team captains were chosen by Landry and helper Ashley Austin, and they played rock, paper, scissors to see who got first pick in creating teams for Capture the Flag.

It wasn’t long before kids of all ages and sizes were running, sliding, laughing, falling, working together and putting their skills to the test in a full-court competition.

“I love coming here,” said Matthew James. It’s superfun and I like spending time with my friends.”

The Jack’s After School Program did have to shut down last November because of COVID-19, but has been back in operation  at Blythe since the beginning of the year.

“We do have the kids wear masks as much as possible,” Landry said.

The after-school program for kids was established by the family of long-time Pratt resident, teacher, coach, People’s Bank employee, and community advocate Jack Ewing after he died in 2015. The impact of his many good deeds and the people he touched by his fun-loving nature and his desire to see and achieve the best out of all he met, continues with this youth mentoring program, open to all kids in the Pratt community.