NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. – The enticing aroma of burgers and hot dogs cooking on an outdoor grill might have drawn more kids than usual to the shortcut between Linwood Avenue and Church Street in Northbridge on Tuesday.
It was the first day of school. Pleasant Street Church, its driveway the shortcut, took the opportunity to introduce students to its Real Life Student Center with a block party.
The after-school program is offered free to children in grades 7 through 12 on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 to 4 p.m.
This is the program's fifth year, Supervisor Diane Milligan said. Students register with the approval of their parents, she said. Attendance is not required on all three days. “Some days we have 10, but we’ve had as many as 50,’’ Milligan said.
In the program, students can participate in a variety of activities and get help with homework from Milligan and her volunteer assistants.
The church basement features a lounge with music, pool, ping pong, air hockey, board games and more; a study room with computers and Internet access; a music room where kids are encouraged to jam on drums, guitar, bass and keyboards; and a kitchen where they cook and eat free food. Students also have access to free art supplies.
The program is funded by Pleasant Street Church, but volunteers from other churches in the community are invited to help, said volunteer Carolyn Lavallee, who represents St. Patrick’s Church.
The program operates on the school schedule: It is closed on snow days and school holidays, Milligan said.
Students interested in participating are invited to stop by on any of the days the center is open.