The Salvation Army in Tehachapi may operate out of a small building, but they fill a huge need. That's because meeting the needs of the community is something Sandy Chavez and her team at the Salvation Army take very seriously.
In addition to its holiday food baskets, food pantry and commodities and back-to-school program, the Salvation Army is expanding its services by offering a Summer STEM Program for junior high and high school students. The program will begin June 17 and will last six weeks. Hours will be Monday through Friday from noon to 5 p.m.
The summer program was made possible through a $5,000 grant received from Edison for the past several years, said Johanna Valencia, Salvation Army Youth Center coordinator.
"Every week will be different, and some weeks will include robotics, 3-D imaging, tie-dye and more," Valencia said.
In addition to purchasing products to support the youth activities, the grant monies will be used to fund fields trips, including a trip to Magic Mountain.
Best of all, children can attend the Summer STEM Program for free, and no pre-registration is required.
On May 31, the Salvation Army will host a STEM party kickoff during its regular after-school program; however, all junior high school, high school and charter students are invited.
"We are going to have an investigation happening where we are transforming our youth center into a lab to introduce STEM along with other activities for kids and pizza," Valencia said.
Center Coordinator Sandy Chavez said that she can remember, as a child living in a small town, that the community center was a lifesaver.
"I think that that's going to be the same thing here," Chavez said. "Last year, I noticed there were some kids that were STEM-minded already, but we also had kids that came because it was a place for them to hang out and see what we had."
Madyson McLaughlin, a youth worker who is a 2018 Tehachapi High School graduate, said she believes the program will give local youth a place to go during the summer.
"It's a good outlet so they are not bored or doing other things," McLaughlin said. "This will be my first time doing the STEM program, and I'm excited for it."
The Salvation Army still has a limited number of openings for children ages 8 through 12 to attend its annual summer kids' camp in Camp Redwood Glen. Owned and operated by the Salvation Army, Camp Redwood Glen is located right outside Santa Cruz. Qualifying children can attend the camp for free the week of June 10 through 15.
For more information about the STEM summer program, call the Salvation Army, located at 538 E. Tehachapi Blvd., at 823-9508. Information on Camp Redwood Glen can be found at tsaredwoodglen.org.