Swinging to keep ROCKS alive

Daily Pilot

If you'd like to see the Costa Mesa after-school program continue next year, then it's time to start swinging.

The city, Newport-Mesa Unified School District and Costa Mesa Parents Teachers Assn. will hold a joint fundraiser to offset or reduce the $295,000 bill that Costa Mesa pays each year for the Recreation on Campus for Kids (ROCKS) after-school program.

"The whole purpose of the ROCKS program is to keep kids at school after school in an environment where they can participate in school activities," said Councilwoman Katrina Foley, who is organizing the event. "And it's a safe environment to keep kids active in school and active at the elementary state. ... I think it leads to kids staying in school and staying involved, as they grow up and go to high school."

Foley is asking community members to go back to their elementary school years on June 9 and play on the swings in the schoolyard while making phone calls and raising money to save the program.

Each person is asked to commit to raising $2,000. The goal is for each of the schools holding the Swingathon to raise $20,000. So far California, Sonora, College Park and Victoria elementary schools have committed to holding the event. And so far, 23 people have committed to raising $2,000 each.

City Commissioner Steve Mensinger, president of the Costa Mesa Pop Warner football program, is one of the 23 who vowed to raise $2,000.

"A lot of my kids from Pop Warner participate in the program, and a lot of the kids that are now in high school are benefactors of the program," he said. "It's very important for the community and the families."

ROCKS serves more than 2,000 students yearly and about 750 a day. The average cost is about $400 per student. Schoolchildren are not required to sign up, pay or attend on regular basis. There are no minimum or maximum quotas. The program provides kids with a place for various activities, including doing homework.

ROCKS is now on the rocks as the city faces a projected $16.4 million budget deficit next year and city leaders are looking to shut down programs and possibly lay off as many as 77 employees.

Along with raising funds to keep the program, the city is looking into the possibility of implementing a nominal fee to help offset the cost.

Foley said this is a temporary fix while the city look for ways to keep the program going in the future.

To donate, visit http://sonora.nmusd.us/donate, mail a check to the Sonora PTA at 966 Sonora Road or the Costa Mesa Community Foundation at P.O Box 10268, Costa Mesa, C.A. 92627. Note in the check that the donation is for the ROCKS program.

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