Children of the Valley Program
Expanding to Burlington, Sedro-Woolley
BY: VINCE RICHARDSON
PHOTOS BY: OLIVER HAMLIN
SEDRO-WOOLLEY — Children of the Valley has brought its after-school program to Sedro-Woolley.
Through a partnership with the Sedro-Woolley School District, Mount Vernon-based Children of the Valley now offers after-school services at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church.
“This has been the vision since the beginning,” said Flora Lucatero, who established Children of the Valley 16 years ago in Mount Vernon and serves as its executive director. “We have wanted to have multiple sites around the county. At Children of the Valley, we always had a bigger vision, looking beyond Mount Vernon.”
Sedro-Woolley School District Assistant Superintendent Mike Olson said the district welcomed the opportunity to partner with Children of the Valley.
“This is just such a wonderful program,” Olsen said. “It has an impact on those students and we are just thrilled to be a part of it.”
Children of the Valley site coordinator Kathy Batista prepares Monday to pick the first leader in a game of red-light green-light during free time outside at the after-school program in Sedro-Woolley.
Lucatero said seeing kids walk through the doors for the first time on Jan. 18 was a thrill.
“Seeing how happy and how excited the kids were to be there and to see this finally happen, it was very emotional and very exciting,” she said.
On that first day, children were asked to write a poem about themselves titled: “I am.”
“The teacher led them through this poem using different words to describe who they are,” Lucatero said. “That was really neat because we had a few kids share some things they had never shared before.
“We want to provide a safe place where they can share how they are feeling emotionally in a supportive environment.”
Children of the Valley activity coordinator Sam Bernhart leads a group through a reading exercise Monday in Sedro-Woolley. The after school program recently expanded to serve schools in Sedro-Woolley.
Because Children of the Valley is a referral-based program, Lucatero said it will grow as word spreads throughout the counseling services provided at the schools in the Sedro-Woolley district, including Mary Purcell, Evergreen and Central elementary schools.
Fifteen kids took part on the first day, though that number is expected to double by the end of this week. The program can serve up to 60 kids.
Lucatero said children receive a healthy snack, participate in group activities to develop team building, camaraderie and friendship, then receive an hour of academic support.
“All the kids we serve qualify for free or reduced lunch,” she said. “And they all have academic needs, either at or below grade level. So they are referred to us based on those qualifications.
“Then we work in partnership with their school’s teacher to supplement that academic support the student needs.”
Sixth grader Maya Rogers takes part Monday in a game of red-light, green-light at the Children of the Valley after-school program in Sedro-Woolley.
To get the program started, the school district used a portion of what it received from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, which is part of the federal CARES Act, to provide a one-time grant to Children of the Valley.
Children of the Valley is a proven program that continues to grow and thrive. It’s the organization’s track record of helping those in need that Olson believes will serve the school district well.
“What I have experienced in my years is that school districts get these grants and they last about three years before they are not sustainable and grind to a halt,” he said. “This is a case where we have an organization that has proven its sustainability.”