By Marianne Weaver
Sponsored by Manassas Park Community Center
The Manassas Park Community Center has developed programs for kids of all ages living in and around Manassas Park. Although the fee structure varies based on residency, programs are available for kids age 3 to 17.
Programs are broken into three categories: Teens (ages 12 to 17), School age (ages 6 to 12) and Preschool (ages 3 to 5).
“First and foremost, the Teen Center provides teens a safe place to go after school,” said Tony Thomas, recreation services supervisor. “We have classes such as World of Art, Volunteer Club, Movie Mondays, Career Launch where teens learn how to fill out resumes and apply to jobs, Latin dance class, and tournaments in the Teen Center that regularly include the pool table, air hockey, or a video game on our PlayStation 4.”
The center is staffed with trained recreation leaders who make it a point to get to know each teen. Although the teens don’t need constant supervision, the leaders jump in to interact with the teens and help with homework.
The most popular program, the Manassas Park 3 O’clock Club (shortened to MP3) has been operating for more than 15 years.
“Many after school centers have kids age out once they enter middle school,” said Thomas. “Although by Virginia law, preteens and teens are allowed to stay home by themselves for a brief period of time, many kids do not want to be home by themselves, and parents may not want their kids to be alone either. That is where MP3 comes in. We provide a lightly supervised after school program for kids in 6-8 grade. The program is only open to middle school students at Manassas Park.”
The Teen Passport program costs $20 a month. However, a reduced—or waived—fee is available for teens who can provide proof of good grades in school and/or community service.
“Good grades and benevolence equal a point value, and if a teen achieves 20 points in a month, their next month’s membership is free,” said Thomas.
Jason Shriner, City of Manassas Park Department of Parks and Recreation marketing manager, said the most diverse programming is offered to school-aged kids. The co-ed classes include break dancing, volleyball, sewing, chess, science and more. Currently, he said, the most popular class is a cupcake decorating class taught by Gina Michak, owner of From Gina’s Kitchen. She said she teaches kids kitchen safety and how to make recipes such as vanilla buttercream, mason jar salad dressings, sandwich wraps and dessert pizzas.
“I’m happy when I see kids with the ‘light bulb’ moment on their faces,” said Michak. “MPCC programs give kids safe, fun and educational opportunities. I put the emphasis in FUN and interactive! Since the center handles registrations, it’s affordable to all. I think that’s important, as families on a budget need reasonably priced choices in what their kids do after school.”
The class costs between $10 and $25, depending on residency.
The community center features a licensed pre-school for kids 3 to 5.
“Our program is different from others in the community because we offer a program that has the flexibility to adjust to every child, this is accomplished through a hybrid curriculum, which means that we create our own curriculum,” said Arely Angel, lead preschool teacher. “All children learn differently, and we tailor the learning strategies to better help our students. Focusing on independence and attentiveness, are just some of the basic learning that we implement, which are essential for the transition to kindergarten.”
Shriner said another popular program is WCRB karate for preschoolers, taught by Master Geoff Thompson.
“He focuses on courtesy, respect and discipline,” said Shriner. This is a great way to get kids some real-world experience and child development outside of the home prior to starting school.”