Walking into the Lighthouses program at Kirkcaldy Heights School, there is a flurry of activity.
It’s the last day of the program, and students excitedly play games together and chat with the activity leader as they wait for the pizza party to begin.
"It is really fun, I love it here," said nine-year-old Kierra Playford. "You get to have free time, you play some awesome games — and you don’t really do that at home ... I like to play with some friends from here and it’s really nice that it’s after school."
Lighthouses is an after-school program put on by the City of Brandon, in conjunction with Manitoba’s Department of Justice, and Neighbourhoods Alive.
The goal of the program is to provide youth a positive environment to get involved in pro-social, recreational and crime prevention activities after school. In Brandon, there have been 279 students participate in the program this school year in 12 locations throughout the week.
Depending on each school’s available space, participants will make crafts, play sports, board games and even learn to cook.
"We try to incorporate new things, just something different other than playing video games or sitting around not doing anything," said youth activity leader Anastasia Giannopoulos. "And they get to interact with their peers as well."
Giannopoulos has been with the Lighthouses program for the past five years. She is studying education at Brandon University and is currently in her second teaching placement.
"I look forward to coming to work, they’re amazing kids," she said. "I think it’s a really good program and it’s really good that it’s free for them so they don’t have to worry about costs."
The program ranges from grades 3 to 6.
"I like it because you get to make more friends than usual," said Garde 4 student Colton Quill.
Nine-year-old Jing Yuan has been a part of the program at Kirkcaldy since it began in October.
"My mom signed me up because my mom has to work a lot and she doesn’t have time to get a babysitter," she said.
For the past two years, Paige Thorburn has been one of the co-ordinators for the city’s Lighthouses program. She is currently studying early childhood education at Assiniboine Community College.
"We want to provide a safe space for children to be after school," Thorburn said. "Sometimes you get home from school and you don’t really have anything to do, and it’s kind of boring. This gives them a safe area to hang out with new friends and get to know us."
Thorburn said she’s gotten to know the kids over the past several months and can see positive results.
"To come in and be here and see new people, meet new friends, you can really tell it changes them," she said.
The Lighthouses program was designed to help communities develop and deliver effective programs for children and youth after-school and during weekends.
Children and youth who participate in organized activities outside of school tend to have higher self-esteem, interact better with friends and perform better in school, according to the program’s web page.
The Brandon program has enough funding to run from October to March and was wrapped up this week.