GLOVERSVILLE - There's a waiting list for the after-school program at the Jewish Community Center, says JCC Executive Director Mary Lou Shepard.
"Staffed by professionals, the JCC has an overwhelming after-school program with more than 200 elementary youths taking karate, swimming and basketball," she said. "This program is partially funded by the United Way of Fulton County and the Fulton County Youth Bureau. We also have a day camp, with last year's enrollment [being] more than 75 youths."
Shepard said activities in the after-school program at this time include basketball, swimming and karate.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Ryan Defelice of Gloversville jumps into the pool at the Jewish Community Center in Gloversville earlier this month.
She said some school districts bus students to the JCC.
At the March 3 after-school program, karate brown belt instructor Randal Monge of Martial Arts & Me studio in Johnstown said he was teaching children releases and basic safety techniques to keep from being abducted.
First, he got the children to burn off some energy with laps around the JCC gym.
His 13-year-old assistant, Francesco Bianco, said the message they are giving to children when confronted by a stranger is simple: "Get away and run."
Parent Matthew Kortz said this was the second session he has attended with his 6-year-old son Nathan, a Park Terrace Elementary School student.
"He's an only child, and it's good to have him involved in something after school," Kortz said. "The socialization is helpful."
Kortz said the after-school program at the JCC "seemed like a good program," and if his son completes the initial introduction to karate, Kortz may sign him up for regular karate instruction.
Kortz said he marveled at the instructors' ability to get the children's attention and keep them on task.
"How do they get the kids to all do the same thing," he said. "They are great at commanding respect."
Jennifer Warner also was at the March 3 session with her daughter Brianna, 7.
She said bringing her daughter to Gloversville from her Johnstown home is worth the trip.
"She comes for swimming lessons as well as karate," Warner said. "[Brianna] started with basketball and is now on level four in swimming."
Warner said her daughter is getting one-on-one swimming lessons as well as group lessons in progression.
"She meets other kids from Johnstown here, too," Warner said. "You can't beat the cost at $1 a week."
Martial Arts & Me Chief Instructor Joe Pazzaglia said 87 children are enrolled in the karate portion of the after-school program.
In a letter to the parents of children in the program, he said he wants to reassure them there is no promotion or condoning of violence in the program.
"The program is designed to provide children with the tools, techniques and strategies necessary to deal with child predators and children abduction prevention," he said. "It will be made abundantly clear that all techniques taught during the program are not meant for play purposes and not to be misused."
Gloversville Enlarged School District Parent Coordinator Janice Blodgett said she thinks the program at the JCC complements what the schools offer. She said the district provides transportation for children in some cases when possible.
"We try to meet the needs of the community and be accommodating in any way we can," Blodgett said. "I think the [JCC] program is great."
Greater Johnstown School District Superintendent Katherine Sullivan said the district supports after-school programming like that at the JCC.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for our students to participate in a variety of activities," Sullivan said. "The population at the JCC is rich with Johnstown participants, and we are happy to see that."
Broadalbin-Perth Central School District Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson agreed.
"We think highly of the program and will continue to promote it," he said.
Shepard said every day of the after-school program is a bit different so children stay involved.
She said the JCC also will have summer camp from June 29 to Aug. 21. She stressed all swimming instructors are certified by the American Red Cross.
Shepard said the JCC offers activities for adults as well.
"We have numerous cultural events with a theatrical presentation yearly," she said. "We offer a health club, auditorium, gymnasium and Olympic-size swimming pool that is open to the public."
Shepard, who has been director of the facility for the past 15 years, said the JCC should be on any list of desirable attractions in downtown Gloversville.
The after-school program runs from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
For more information, call 725-3161 or visit the 28 E. Fulton St. location.
Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at email@example.com.