In some ways, Club J, the Marcus JCC’s after-school program, is similar to summer day camps held at the same location. That’s definitely what convinced Jennifer Swenson-Friedberg to sign up her two young sons for the after-school club at the MJCCA instead of at their school or another option.
“They can swim on Fridays or use the gym when it’s raining. There are cooking facilities they can use on a regular basis. There’s a computer lab kids have access to.”
She said most after-school clubs don’t offer that variety in one place.
Besides what Friedberg mentioned, Club J members have access to the lake and rock-climbing wall when weather permits, and they learn lessons from visiting shinshinim Israeli high school graduates, said Dana Rifkin, MJCCA’s Club J director.
New this school year, the club began offering Spanish, she noted. There’s also time for supervised homework help, counselor-led activities and physical activity.
“I wanted my kids to play after school,” Friedberg said of her motivation. She also likes how they are exposed to a multicultural mix of students. “They were able to make friendships they would not have been able to make at other schools. They are meeting kids from public school, Jews and non-Jews, a much more varied and diverse crowd.”
Children from pre-K through fifth grade from 10 local schools also participate in community service. This past year, the more than 200 children in the club made handmade blankets for the homeless and worked with The Packaged Good and Creating Connected Communities – both have Jewish founders – to put together care bags for children in need. The after-school club also wrote letters thanking soldiers, firefighters and police officers for their service; baked and delivered cookies to local police and fire stations; made sandwiches for Malachi’s Storehouse and meals for the South Atlanta Youth Group.
“I love that they give kids a chance to do something … that helps people directly,” Friedberg said. “Having the kids make the cookies but then also get on a bus and deliver them to the fire station is so important.
“This is my son Noah’s second time taking cookies to the fire station and he loves it. He recognizes how important it is to help others. We discuss how important it is to say thank you to others, including those who are there for us when we need them,” she said.
“I never thought that my kids would be so excited to go to an after-school program. I love that they are given the opportunity to do fun things that really impact the community.
“These values of helping others and showing appreciation for others are ones that they will surely take with them long after they graduate from Club J,” Friedberg added.
Rifkin said, “We are thrilled to have this opportunity to teach our Club J children how important it is to give back to our community. It’s important for the kids to get involved and say, ‘thank you.’ We impart on them that there are things outside that are bigger than us, and how important it is to not only show our appreciation, but to help those who help keep us safe, and to help those who can’t help themselves. We try to teach them to be selfless and hope that this translates to a value that they take with them in their everyday life.”
Club J registration began March 9 for returning families and opens March 23 for new families for the 2020-21 school year, which runs from Aug. 3 to May 25, 2021. Transportation is available to Club J, located at the MJCCA Tilly Mill campus. For information about registration and rates, contact Club J at 678-812-3761, or visit atlantajcc.org/afterschool.