The Welcome Wagon
A day at ESP 360 begins when schools let out. 3:30 p.m. marks a rush of activity; cars wrap around the ESP facility and colorful vans drop off participants at our front door where they are met with a cheering crowd. Music fills the Tree Room and the activity rooms, spilling out through the doorway. Individuals of all abilities reunite with old friends, strike up conversations with someone new or just bask in the energy as they’re welcomed back to their home away from home.
This is what the volunteers, ESP cast and after-school participants experienced last week during the Welcome Week kickoff. It was the first week of the fall semester that the community could gather for ESP’s afterschool programs.
Ask any ESP veteran and they could probably tell you about their first day at ESP like it just happened yesterday. It’s an event that defines the rest of the year and cements your place at ESP.
ESP 360 is one of our most popular and frequent programs on a day-to-day basis. Running from Monday-Thursday, the focus of 360 is enrichment and friendship. Activities range from cooking, to acting classes, to arts and crafts.
This year, new recruits got to experience a few new changes to a long-standing program. In addition to new program leaders and friends, 360 made its first ever “Buddy Draft” to celebrate the pairing of volunteers and participants.
The Big Reveal
For the draft, all of the volunteers and participants gathered around an announcer like a true ESPN event. No one knew who they would be paired with, making the surprise all the more exciting.
Sierra Bowden, a volunteer who met their buddy for the first time at the draft, said:
“I loved seeing the looks on the participants’ and volunteers’ faces when they found out their buddy during the big reveal.”
The draft was just as impactful on return participants. Spencer (right) attended 360 programs regularly in previous semesters, but said that the buddy draft was the most fun part of welcome week.
“Now the thing I look forward to the most this year is Big Hearts and hanging out with my buddies I made,” said Spencer.
With the draft coming to a close, the focus of 360 from now on will be on cultivating relationships between participants and their buddies and creating fun and engaging activities that challenge and inspire them.