Around 20 third and fourth graders from Great Bend and Ellinwood got the jump on Santa Thursday afternoon as they went on a Christmas shopping spree at Walmart, thanks to the America’s Promise Alliance, sponsored locally by the City of Great Bend, Community Bank of the Midwest and other partners.
Three students from each elementary school in both communities were picked by their teachers and principals for this opportunity. With $25 provided by the bank and buddied up with their mentors from Great Bend High School, they eagerly wandered the store aisles with a holiday twinkle in their eyes.
A matter of minutes after leaving the staging area in the Walmart Subway restaurant, Conner Cannon-Musil was back at the eatery with this mentor Hayden Honomichl.
“He knew exactly what he wanted,” said Community Bank’s Meleah Frazer – a Nerf gun and anything to do with dinosaurs. His parents had stressed he should buy something for himself, although he wanted to get something for them.
According to Frazer, who was at the discount store to help coordinate the shopping excursion, this nationwide mentoring program allows the entities to participate in mentoring activities with the selected students. Here, various city departments, the bank, Barton Community College, the schools and others also pitched in for the effort.
It is the nation’s largest cross-sector alliance of nonprofit, community organizations, businesses, and government organizations dedicated to improving the lives of young people, the APA website notes. “America’s Promise aims to provide young people with access to the five fundamental resources needed in order to lead happy, healthy, and productive lives.”
• An ongoing relationship with a caring adult in their lives – parents, mentors, tutors, coaches, and community leaders.
• Safe places with structured activities during non-school hours
• Healthy start and future
• Marketable skills through effective education
• Opportunities to give back through community service
It works to raise awareness about the importance of these resources and inspire actions that help more children and youth receive them, Frazer said. The organization does this by leading national public awareness campaigns, conducting research, hosting events and convening summits, and partnering with hundreds of national, state, and community organizations that work directly with youth.
The Christmas shopping was just one of the many local activities for the third- and fourth-grade kids through America’s Promise. There is an event monthly, and 20 or so youngsters are selected for each one.
A few of these include bowling, miniature golf, swimming, a trip to the Hutchinson Cosmosphere, a trip to the Lyons salt mines, snake and animal show, flying in airplanes, a community service project, and an afternoon at the Fire Department.
Frazer said it takes a lot of cooperation between parents, and school secretaries, teachers and principals.
The Presidents’ Summit for America’s Future in 1997 – a national summit held in Philadelphia to promote a civic response to many of the country’s problems, particularly the challenges facing at-risk youth – led to the creation of America’s Promise Alliance.
It has been in Great Bend since the beginning.