After being in existence for 23 years, Alton Green Memorial American Legion Post 194’s (St. Augustine, Fla.) Kids Safe Zone after-school program continues to be the benchmark for after-school programs in St. John’s County. “KSZ” and our summer camp programs are offered to the community at no cost to the parents. “Our kids are composed of ‘at-risk and often grandparent-raised’ kids who are in need of academic help and supervised recreational programs,” said Greg White, past post commander and overseer of the program. “We have four retired teachers and three assistants who assist with the 45-plus kids we have in our program.”
The teachers personally walk to the school and escort the kids from Webster Elementary School, right around the corner from the post. The KSZ program reaches out to kids pre-K through 8th grade. Program teachers give personal one-on-one assistance when needed, and a recent reporting period showed vast improvement in the kids’ reading and math grades.
The post holds a family night each reporting period to recognize those students who made the honor roll. Local vendors recently sponsored bicycles for the six “A” honor roll students and four for the “A-B” honor roll students. Legionnaires in attendance gave each honor roll student a gift card or a monetary donation as a continued incentive for the next period. The post also serves a free dinner for all in attendance. As honor students are recognized, their names are called and they run down to the front through a gauntlet of cheers and applause as if they were at a pep rally or athletic event. The smiles on their faces as they reach the front is worth every minute and dollar spent to keep the program afloat.
After the school year has ended, the post transitions to a summer camp where they have a focus on teaching kids to swim, taking them on cultural outings and letting them see firsthand how city and county government works. We realize that every kid has the potential to be successful, but has to be put in the type of environment and given the right exposure to nurture and grow on their goals in life. Our KSZ programs strive for those very things. We try hard to expose the kids in our program to all walks of life. In 2019, KSZ was awarded the Department of Florida’s “Best Children and Youth Program.”