WESLEY CHAPEL – Students of all ages at Wesley Chapel Elementary School recently had the chance to study martial arts, cooking, build intricate LEGO creations and learn how to draw Disney characters – all without leaving their school campus.
The school recently wrapped up its Wesley Chapel After School Enrichment Program, or WASEP, a six-week program that offers fun and educational classes for students on Thursdays after school. The program is held twice a year – once in the fall and again in the spring – and gives students a chance to experience enrichment activities at an affordable cost.
“It’s just an opportunity for the kids to have enrichment, things that they normally won’t get the chance to do,” said Mindy Reed, the school’s globalization teacher who helps organize the program each year. “It gives them a chance to try different things, and the kids absolutely love it. Classes usually fill up quickly.”
WASEP is open to about 120 students each semester on a first-come, first-served basis. The program generally offers 10 to 12 different themed classes each semester – ranging from LEGO building, cooking, knitting and jewelry making to taekwondo, dance, cartooning and cheerleading. Children in all grades have a chance to take part in the program, though some classes are geared toward different age groups.
Teachers and other volunteers from the community contribute their time, talent and knowledge to the program, and students are able to sign up for the class that interests them.
“We try to get a variety of classes since they are choosing things that interest them,” said Reed, who also is a parent of a 9-year-old Wesley Chapel student. “Every time, my daughter has a difficult time choosing (a class) because she has a list of what all she wants to take before she leaves Wesley Chapel because she can’t participate in them all.”
Principal Dr. Wendy Gravely said the response from students and parents is overwhelmingly positive each year, and the school is constantly looking for ways to expand and improve the program.
“We do a lot of seeking input from the students and parents about the programs that we offer, so we let them kind of guide the program selection,” Gravely said. “It gives them an opportunity to experience enrichment activities at the school level, and they don’t have to leave the school to do it. It’s at a financial level they can afford.”
Two of the things that set WASEP apart from similar programs other schools host are the affordability of the program and the sense of family within the school community. The classes generally cost $75 to $80, and the school offers scholarship opportunities for families who need financial assistance.
“Our school is very much a family-based community,” Gravely said. “We do things as a family to take care of each other.”
The main thing that makes the classes so popular and keeps students coming back each year, Reed said, is they offer children the opportunity to do and learn things they otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to experience.
“We live lives that are so fast paced that a lot of times it’s the little things we don’t get to try,” she said. “There’s just a lot of excitement and enthusiasm, and (the students) are always very sad when the last day comes.”
Gravely also has witnessed students grow in knowledge and enthusiasm for learning as they participate in WASEP, and she looks forward each semester to hosting the program.
“I get really excited about it because I love seeing the kids excited about anything, particularly things that have to do with learning opportunities for them,” Gravely said. “It’s a great opportunity for our students and our staff, so we love it.”