CORPUS CHRISTI (KIII NEWS) - The "West Side Helping Hand" after school program is making a difference in the lives of Coastal Bend children, with its focuses on academics, learning, and giving children one particular part of town an environment where they can thrive.
10-year-old Damian Ramirez has come a long way.
"How much do you appreciate your grandma?"
"A whole lot with my life," Damian replied.
Damian and his two brothers are raised by their great-grandmother Yolanda Ramirez.
"Its been a struggle in a lot of up and downs but we kept it keep it going," Yolanda said.
At 70-year-old Yolanda appreciates any help she can get with her boys.
Yolanda said she noticed a change in Damian within the last two months: his grades have gone up, he's more respectful, helps out around the house and she gives credit to West Side Helping Hand for the change.
"These kids would be behind the tv or playing a game for the next 3-4 hours before someone gets home," Yolanda said.
Sergio Gonzalez is the CEO of West Side Helping Hand, and he started the program because he felt that he could make a difference, particularly in single-parent families.
"I wanna give these kids a chance in life," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez created a structured after-school program that focuses on academics, sports, social skills, and kids just being kids.
"We're always on a strict schedule as far as homework and extracurricular activities, for example, Monday it'll be music, running, kids culinary. teach the kids how to do basic meals for the family and an hour for the kids to be kids outside," Gonzalez said.
Since the start of the program in 2016 of March, they have added more sports, social skills such as like looking at someone in the eye when talking to them, and even yoga.
"The kids that are here have gone through some tough times so the yoga class she integrates a lot of movements feelings reflection whats going on in their day to day life. especially the boys they love that class," Gonzalez said.
The programs success numbers are shown with kids who attend have picked up their grades in math, reading, science and language skills.
Zavala Elementary school principal Jenniffer Hammond considers the partnership her school has with West Side Helping Hand an essential collaboration.
'We have from Zavala over 60 kids participating in their after school program. Students who have had previous attendance issues or academic issues are now coming to school every day so they can after school go to west side helping hands. The kids understand that we encourage them but then they go there and they have male and female role models they know believe and them and look up to. I don't know that I could do my job alone. Principals can't do it without the support that West Side Helping Hands offer. You wonder where the kids would be on holidays," Hammond said.
"I believe the kids we are producing now will be in politics in Austin, Washington, some mayors," Gonzalez said.
The program is currently at capacity, but if individuals would like to enroll their children for summer, they can contact Sergio Gonzalez at 361-290-2447.
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