Breathe Youth Arts meet-up extending its outreach

After-school program to offer free transportation to and from classes

A popular youth program has recently received an attendance boost thanks to the area's public transportation system.

The Breathe Youth Arts Program, a component of Light of Chance, Inc., is now providing free transportation to and from the after-school program via Pennyrile Allied Community Services. A PACS driver will pick up students directly from their homes, drive them to the Breathe site at the Rosenwald-Smith Multicultural Center and take them back home after the program ends.

Any child in grades 5-12 who lives in Hopkins County is eligible for transportation and entry into the program.

"Sometimes, kids want to come to Breathe, but they don't have a ride," Executive Director Eric Logan said. "This removes that barrier, so kids can get into our program."

The Breathe Youth Arts program gives area kids a creative outlet in which to express themselves, whether it be through music, dance or visual arts. Logan created the program in 2012 as an alternative for kids who are otherwise surrounded by a multitude of sporting opportunities, but are simply not interested in participating in sports.

Approximately 50-60 students attend Breathe each semester. Since its inception, more than 400 Hopkins County children have taken part in the program. Logan said he hopes that number keeps rising through the new partnership with PACS.

"We hadn't publicly announced the partnership until now," he said. "We just passed word within the schools and in our fliers. We've already had a few kids take advantage of it."

Breathe's visual arts class is currently its fastest-growing with 25 student members. Music, led by instructors Christopher Leal and Cara Holley, also has 25 members this semester. Each class is led by two teachers and a number of volunteers. There is currently no capacity for class size.

"It's amazing watching a child who constantly doubts him or herself blossom and believe they are capable of creating great and beautiful things," said Tonja Leal, art youth specialist. "It literally changes them for the better. They come in wanting to show us what they have done outside of here. Their parents are telling us how things have gotten better at school. What we are doing here is magical."

PACS Transportation Director Ken Johnston agreed, and said the partnership was the only natural course for the assistance center to oblige when asked to lend a hand.

In fact, earlier this spring, the center extended its transportation hours from 6 a.m.-2 p.m. to 4 a.m.-10 p.m. to accommodate such causes.

"Of all the things we do to help the community, to help people get back and forth to work, to the public library or anywhere else with public transportation, Eric fit right in with the reason we changed those hours," Johnston said. "We could have never done something like this with Light of Chance on our previous hours."

Student sign-ups are ongoing and parents may register a child at http://www.lightofchance.org/breathe-youth-arts-program. Classes are free and meet from 3:30-6 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday at the Rosenwald center.

By Laura Harvey Lead Reporter lharvey@the-messenger.com