If you remember middle school and high school, you probably have one of two opinions about it: Either it was some of the best years of your life, or some of the worst.

It’s a difficult time of transition in young people’s lives. Bodies are changing, the amount of work and the difficulty of your curriculum gets ratcheted up, and you’re expected to get out and participate in more activities while having a social life and at the same time, as you get later into high school, possibly holding down a part time job and applying to college. It’s everyone’s first foray into how hard it is to be an adult. 

We have students coming from lower income families which has, in the past, meant less opportunity for involvement in extracurricular activities. We have students coming from middle class families that are getting by with a living wage, but seen as “too wealthy” to earn much financial aid, meaning college is a time for them to rack up tens of thousands of dollars in debt. 

Our county educators are on the front lines of these battles, and they have been listening and have fought to do something about it. The Eagle Enrichment program going into place at Johnson Central High School and Johnson County Middle School is every school’s dream: A place for kids who need help to get help, and a place for kids who need new challenges to find those challenges. 

Program co-coordinator Misty Ward said that Eagle Enrichment means a place for tutoring, a place for developing social skills outside the classroom and a place for kids who want to organize games to have a safe, supervised space to do so. It means a book club. A gardening club. Cooking classes. Robotics competitions. Field trips. Help applying for financial aid and scholarships. Whatever your scene is, there will be a place to fit in. The program is tailored completely to student needs, individually and in groups.

The only obstacle to a program like this, and the only reason we have not had it before, is money. Food, bus transportation to county elementary school hubs, robotics kits and everything else the program will offer are not free. It’s only thanks to a successful grant-writing for 21st Century Community Learning Center funds that this program is going from dream to reality.

Calling our children our future is a hollow platitude without the hard work to back it up and invest in these kids to make that future better. Our local educators have shown time and again that they are capable and willing to make that investment with their time and energy, and now, the state has invested $150,000 for the next five years to help. 

These are the kinds of efforts we need. If you’re going to JCMS or JCHS this year, or your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews or siblings are, have a talk with them when they bring home materials about the programs on offer at Eagle Enrichment, and make use of this new opportunity.

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