BOW — Allen Elementary School second grader German Torres loves spending time at his after-school center — and it shows.

The 8-year-old enjoys making slime, playing soccer and especially the program’s gardening class.

“I used to go to garden so much,” he said. “I was so good at it.”

When U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen visited the center last week, German wasted no time in showing him the ropes — first teaching the veteran lawmaker how to make slime and then taking him outside to play soccer.

“It’s fun to be here,” German told Larsen. “I like the teachers, and I like what we can do here.”

While in Skagit County, Larsen stopped to visit the center, which is funded largely through a nearly $1 million federal 21st Century Community Learning Center grant.

It is one of two such grants in the Burlington-Edison School District. While the Allen Elementary School program is aimed at all of the school’s first through eighth grade students, the program at Lucille Umbarger Elementary School is aimed at middle-school-age students.

“At this program, the kids can do many things they can’t do at home,” said Gloria Lemus Mendez, the center director at Allen.

The program is in the final year of its five-year grant, Lemus Mendez said.

The district was awarded the grant in 2014 from the U.S. Department of Education and administered through the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The grant is designed to help school districts and other organizations provide safe, educational places for students to go after school.

“Every year lately we’ve had to fight to keep the funding around for it,” Larsen said. “The current administration wants to get rid of it. It’s clear that these dollars were well used.”

It’s a program, Larsen said, that’s worth fighting for.

“I think that for the kids who participate, the outcomes have been they do better, their grades get better, they get along better with their classmates,” Larsen said. “If you took it away, I think it’s fair to say the opposite would happen.”

— Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141, kwanielista@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kera_SVH, facebook.com/KeraReports

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