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Branching Outward one of Lincoln’s after-school programs helping kids during pandemic

Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 8:37 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Despite challenges with the pandemic, there are still after-school programs open for students in Lancaster County.

Lincoln Community Learning Centers provide a fun educational system that uses schools as a gathering place for students and families.

According to census.gov, roughly 40% of children between six and 17-years-old do not participate in after school activities. Studies show that kids are roughly 10-percent more likely to be engaged at school when having these after school activities.

Lefler Middle School is one of many that have a partnership with the Lincoln YMCA and offers these community learning centers even through the pandemic.

“Lefler is very resilient, we have a great team of families, of students, of staff, so I think the biggest challenge was kind of looking into the future and thinking how we’re going to make this work. Once we got into it with all the procedures, we worked as a team and supported one another,” said YMCA CLC Coordinator, Emmary Lunberry.

That resiliency has given 368 students at Lefler Middle School the opportunity to be a part of these programs and have after-school activities.

There is one particular group that not only helps Lefler Middle Schoolers find their people, but it is created, designed and run by students.

16-year old, Evan Boesen, is the founder of the CLC, Branching Outward. The group began to help students who are having a hard time building a circle of friends.

Branching outward focuses on plant science and how it can be used to connect with the community. They normally begin with a plant based activity, which in turn helps them connect with each other.

“For a lot of people, and in middle school especially, life and other things can be very tough, it can pile on and it can become stressful. I feel like Branching Outward cannot only provide a space where they feel welcome, but a place where they can feel calm and free of that stress,” said Boesen.

Branching Outward members said the connections have been so strong, some go on from middle school into high school and still want to be part of the group as mentors.

For more information on how to get involved with Branching Outward, you can check out their website here.

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