When Jeanne Waldren arrived in August 2000 as program director for the Soldotna After the Bell program, attendance was not nearly has high as it is now that she is leaving.
For the same reasons she arrived, she will be moving on.
"I talk about strong family values," she said. "Now I have to walk the walk."
She is moving to New Hampshire to be with her two daughters and two grandchildren. This is the same reason she came back to Alaska -- to be with her family.
Waldren lived on the peninsula between 1974 and 1983 before moving from Alaska.
She worked for an after-school program in Oregon for five years before she began work at Soldotna After the Bell.
The Soldotna program has not found a replacement for Waldren yet.
"We aren't going to find another Jeanne," said Rosy Thompson, site coordinator at Soldotna Middle School. "She has some big shoes to fill."
Waldren's enthusiasm, dedication and concern for all involved in the program, as well as her desire for the educational enhancement of students, was described by her staff.
"She is 100 percent committed to after-school programs," said Karen Strash, site director for After the Bell at Soldotna Elementary.
The Soldotna program now serves more than 300 students in Soldotna's elementary, middle and high schools.
"This has been the most wonderful experience I've ever had, with an incredible staff and incredible kids," Waldren said.
The Soldotna program offers tutoring and homework assistance and recreational opportunities for students, Waldren said. The schools offer safe and secure places for students to gain enrichment between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m.
With Waldren's help, the club has been able to remain open for students during spring, Christmas and summer breaks.
She would like to see the program expand to mornings "for enrichment before school as well," Strash said.
Waldren sees the program as part of the community, said Thompson and Robin Veluce, coordinator at Soldotna High School.
"It takes the community to raise a child," Thompson said.
The program started through a 21st Century Community Learn-ing Centers grant collaboration with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, the Soldotna Community Schools and the Boys and Girls Club.
The program has enough of a $1.6 million federal grant left to last the rest of this year. The funds were allocated for a three-year period starting in the fall of 1999.
At the end of this year it will be up to the Boys and Girls Club to keep the program going. There also is an advisory board task force that will help find funding from the public for the remaining expenses the Boys and Girls Club cannot cover, such as some of the activities and supplies.
"Eventually it could change and become more expensive," Waldren said about the $20 member fee for elementary and middle school students.
Although After the Bell has been a wonderful experience for Waldren, she said she is adventurous and must move on to be with her own children.
To celebrate her commitment to area children and the community, there will be an open house held in Waldren's honor at Soldotna Middle School from 5 to 7 p.m. today.
"She has done so much for the children," Strash said. "She is an inspiration. She is lovely, just fantastic."
Peninsula Clarion ©2015. All Rights Reserved.