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New after school program in Hopewell gives youth alternative environment after school

Published: May. 25, 2022 at 7:13 PM EDT
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HOPEWELL, Va. (WWBT) - The ‘WELL is a new after-school program in Hopewell, giving students a safe place to have fun and build relationships.

“There’s just a genuine happiness to be here and be in the safe,” said Superintendent Melody Hackney of Hopewell Public Schools. “Every afternoon, between 3 and 3:30 p.m., I can hear them running up the stairs, running, laughing, and joking - excited to be here.”

The ‘WELL stands for Wisdom, Equity, Love and Laughter. It’s designed to provide a caring and supportive alternative environment for youth after school hours.

It’s something that the school board says has been missing from the city for quite some time.

“It’s definitely needed in our city. We’re a small city. Some of the kids just find themselves at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Hackney.

Through a partnership with the Hopewell City Council, the Hopewell School Board was able to create the ‘WELL, a free, after-school program.

“We created a space where kids have the opportunity to come directly from school. Transportation is provided by the school, where we can put them in a safe space, deal with any water and food insecurities they may have going on in their home,” said Gerald Napper, Hopewell Public Schools Youth Coordinator.

It features a kitchen and coffee shop, where kids can learn how to cook from chefs, prepare meals for other students, and get their daily nutrition.

“They’ll learn how to cook meals that are normally present in their homes, and once they finish their cooking meals, we go into mentorship classes and training, where we talk about things going on in their lives, capture that information and present it to their parents,” said Napper.

The ‘WELL is equipped with eight rooms total: A state-of-the-art game room, movie theater room, quiet study room, weight room, kitchen, multi-purpose room and coffee shop.

“In here [the game room], we have PlayStation, we have Xboxs, and we have virtual reality. In the movie theater, the kids come in here, relax, have their slushies and their popcorn, and they watch a safe movie provided by our staff. And in the weight room, they come in here, and they burn off energy, and we teach them how to put that energy in a positive manner,” said Napper. “We want to make sure that when they come from the school, they have the ability to have something to eat to be able to interact with their friends in a social environment, a safe environment.”

Since opening, the ‘WELL says the response from parents and youth have been unimaginable, reaching a waiting list within the first month proving there was a need in the city.

“We already see where going to outgrow this space very quickly. We’re going to work to seek out what we need to do to get a larger facility in the future,” said Napper.

For parents interested, this program is currently only available for middle and high school students.

Carter G. Woodson students can attend The ‘WELL on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and high school students can attend Mondays and Wednesdays from 3-9:00 p.m.

Plans for elementary kids are in the works for the future.

Volunteers are also needed. To volunteer, click here.

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