By Pablo Jaime Sáinz
If it wasn’t for the After-School Program at Granger Junior High School in National City, Michael Crawford would probably spent afternoons in the streets or at home all by himself.
The 15-year-old’s mother works until 5:30 p.m. and he doesn’t have anybody else to stay with at home after he is out of school.
For the past three years, he has taken advantage of the After-School Program at Grangerespecially the Game Room, a place where, after doing their homework, students can go and play with video games and foosball, watch television or just hang out with friends.
So when he heard that last March, during Spring Break, thieves broke into Granger and stole more than $5,000 worth of electronic equipment from the Game Room, he was devastated.
“I was shocked,” Michael said. “That place has been like a second home for me, a place where I’ve been able to improve my grades and have fun at the same time.”
But he was also excited when he heard that an anonymous donor was giving the school more than $5,000 in television and video game equipment to replace what had been stolen.
The donation, which includes a 50 inche wide-screen TV, 12 PlayStations, and more than 100 video games, was made possible thanks to National City Police Department School Resource Officer Colleen Stanich, who, after learning of the break-in, used her business contacts to find a donor.
There was an assembly in the Game Room to recognize the donation and unveil the new equipment for the After-School Program.
“It was an amazing gesture,” said Robert A. Bleisch, Granger’s After-School Program coordinator. “We would really like to highlight that Officer Stanich went out of her way to make this gift a reality.”
Since the break-in, the attendance at the After-School Program had dropped significantly and the students had experienced a feeling of loss,
Bleish said that the program can have anywhere from 200 up 550 kids.
“For a lot of kids here there’s no one waiting for them at home when they come back from school,” Bleisch said. “Here they can spend afternoons in a positive environment with people who care for them.”
Bleish said that mainstream media rarely cover positive stories in National City. Just a few independent newspapers, such as La Prensa San Diego, actually go out into the community and cover stories like the equipment donation, he said.
“If there had been a shooting or a car chase, the TV stations would’ve sent all their cameras to National City,” he said.
But it is stories like this one the ones that make a difference in the area, Bleish said.
Jason Wesson, a 9th. grade student, has benefited from the After-School Program at Granger. He said that being able to do homework there has improved his grades, but it has also made life easier for his parents, who work until late.
“My parents would be worried if I couldn’t stay in school during the afternoon,” he said, adding that he loves to play pool and videogames in the Game Room. “Most likely I would be out on the streets.”
His classmate, Michael Johnson, also said he’s glad to see that there are people in the community like Officer Stanich and the donor who are making a difference in kids’ lives.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said.