Fitness has always been important to Fit Kids founder Rhonda Smith. She remembers traveling around the country starting health clubs in the ‘80s and women being worried about getting thunder thighs and muscular arms.
Their nonprofit agency provides after-school care and summer camp for more than 250 children in Miami-Dade’s Westchester area. The Children’s Trust, which helps to fund the after-school care and the camp, named it Program of the Year for 2018.
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The after-school program, which costs $35 a week, begins at 2 p.m. and is open until 7. A bus ferries children from nearby Olympia Heights Elementary. Serving children up to age 14, the agency also has students from Glades Middle, Everglades K-8 and Cypress K-8.
“Whoever can get to us, we want them,” Smith said. While children do get time to play outside, “we have indoor fitness and aerobics, hip-hop, line dancing, resistance training. …. It is age appropriate” Smith said.
The afternoon begins with children eating a healthy snack and then tackling homework. Smith hires certified teachers and college students to help and has labs for the public-school-mandated iReady computer programs in reading and math.
She relies on “the generosity of the Trust and other donations” to purchase and service computers. “Even as we speak, I have one IT guy there . . . to make sure the computers are up and working,” Smith said.
Summer Paramo said her daughter Cheryl, 8, has to do 80 minutes a week of iReady on the computer for reading and son Lenin, 9, is required to do an hour of reading and an hour of math on iReady as well as 15 minutes of Reflex Math. Having much of that completed while they’re at Fit Kids “is a great help,” Paramo said.
“Imagine picking them up and still having to do that” in addition to homework and dinner, she added.
In choosing an after-school and camp program, “we’re looking to improve literary skills, physical fitness and social skills,” Robinson said, “and Fit Kids is all about healthy eating, social interactions” and helping the whole family live a healthier lifestyle.
Quintana said the Trust helped her “100 percent with Alecsander” with paying for summer camp. Camp fees are $88 a week with a sliding scale for those with lower incomes. Some full scholarships are available.
Last summer, Paramo’s son, Lenin, was old enough for a technology-driven program in which campers programmed computers, used drones and made video commercials. Paramo said the younger ones exercised and played sports outside in the morning when it was cooler and the older ones went outdoors in the afternoon.
“We have been able to identify those [interns] that are exceptional these past several years,” Smith said, adding, “Now some are seniors, several are in college. It’s a wonderful way to identify new employees.