Spotlight Programs

Spotlight: El Capitan Adventures, El Capitan Middle School, Fresno County Demonstration Site

Thrilling After School Action

Incredible journeys start at El Capitan Adventures (ECA) afterschool program, where 970 students are encouraged to embark on the pathway to fun and enrichment. Its success is so great that it continues inspiring many ex-ECA students, now attending high school, to volunteer for the pioneer program.

Class offerings sound like a treasure chest overflowing with prized activities usually reserved for weekends: skate park; graffiti art; Co2 Dragsters; light art; flag football; drum line; Dare 2 Dream; mural art; fine art/painting; karate; and Big Mac, which teaches journalism skills. Cutting edge course Build It shows kids how to construct out-of-the-box things like marshmallow statues and sugar cube castles. Help with homework is part of a program that blends academic improvement and interactive offerings. Whether social, cerebral or both, all of the classes, which change every two months, inspire creativity, excitement and a desire to learn.

ECA serves 250+ students at El Capitan Middle School, including every sports program and cheer. “If you’re on campus afterschool, you’re part of ECA,” Kevin Clifton, site coordinator, said. The free program kicks off every day after school and ends at 6 p.m. Its mission is to engage, enlighten and inspire the young people of the middle school community.

Partnering with the adventuresome afterschool program are Fresno County libraries, which provided services for 2009’s summer program. Giving all students a library card is one of the partnership’s goals.

Meeting goals has led to fierce program loyalty. The tradition of helping each individual has not only prompted the return of former ECA students, but also the growing popularity of the high-energy program. For some, the enrichment classes are the highlight. For others, it’s the tutorials. An all-time favorite are the Freestyle Friday events, when wacky, random games are played. They include giant checkers with the students acting as game pieces, Fear Factory, Calvinball and Jeopardy. Then there’s an Alice in Wonderland game where the staff dresses up like the movie to create a fun mood.

ECA’s impact, however, is more than a game. “A lot of our students have had very rough home lives and they love coming to the program to get some relief,” Kevin said. Hundreds of students have experienced long-lasting positive effects: self-efficacy, improved grades, increased school attendance, attitude improvement and behavior changes. “Middle school students vote with their feet; if they don’t like what you’re offering, they won’t show up,” he said.

Those who heed the call of adventure depend on ECA’s staff. ECA is staffed with 12 dedicated college students from Fresno State University/California Teaching Fellows and Fresno City College who have a passion for working with youth. Staff development is ongoing and activity leaders understand program expectations, that they are necessary to its success and the importance of utilizing available resources on-site. For example, teacher Micah Johnson provides classroom management training to staff while administrators like Geoff Garrett supply Kevin with managerial training and tips. A common thread is each member’s willingness to grow, learn and develop into a great leader.

These noble leaders are shaping students into active achievers through fun, inventive and sometimes unusual activities. Always looking for the next triumph, ECA’s quest advances with new plans and goals. Among them is starting a first-ever color guard program, which is generating more excitement and buzz. “Every student who attends El Capitan is welcome to attend as long as they’re willing to work on homework and participate in programs,” Kevin said. It’s a fantastic voyage.