With school set to resume in a few weeks, several members of the McPherson community are starting a program to provide middle school students a place to gather and learn new skills after class.

“The business community kind of feels a little frustration with the middle school kids dumping out of school and coming downtown. Oftentimes, they take up space, don’t have money to spend and cause problems,” said Jim Ostlund, campus pastor of Journey @ McPherson.

While there are several other options for middle schoolers — including school activities and programs at the YMCA — many are either filled to capacity or may not appeal to the student’s interests.

“The goal is to help fill a gap that we see in the community,” Ostlund said.

Starting Aug. 21, the church will host a new program called Arts After School.

“If you’re not an athlete and feel like you don’t have a place to go after school, this could provide an opportunity,” Ostlund said. “For some of those kids, we can provide a safe haven and prepare them for life by using the arts as a tool.”

Children between the ages of 11 and 14 are at risk to begin experimenting with drugs, alcohol and sex, Ostlund said. Arts After School could facilitate social relationships, give students positive adults role models and limit risk factors that come with unstructured time.

“Our goal is to create a space and have some supervision at that time when kids are most unsupervised, from 3:30 to 5, when parents are usually still working,” Ostlund said.

Arts After School will offer classes in both music and visual arts that, at least for this year, will be offered at no cost to the student.

“We’re trying a pilot program, basically. It’s a one-year initiative at this point in time,” Ostlund said.

The classes are intended to give middle schoolers access to instruments and private lessons that some families may not be able to afford.

Zach Batson, worship pastor of Journey @ McPherson, will teach the music classes with Ostlund.

“He’s a singer/songwriter,” Ostlund said. “He’s a highly relational, young guy who I think will connect well with the students.”

The music classes, taught on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 3:30 to 5 p.m., will include a 90-minute band lab.

Other volunteers will assist in teaching 30-minute lessons for students to learn drums, guitar, bass, keyboard or vocals.

“We’re still looking for one or two more teachers to volunteer,” Ostlund noted.

Ostlund said the classes are for those who want to learn something other than the classical instruments and arrangements already being covered in the public schools. Students will focus on a variety of music styles including modern rock, country, pop and reggae.

“We want them to experience different styles but also break that down into the different rhythms and sounds, so they learn how to hear that and play in that style,” Ostlund said.

Visual art classes will be held from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday. The sessions will focus on drawing during the fall semester and switch to painting in the spring. Mayuko Shono, a recent graduate of Central Christian College, will lead the classes.

“She’s a tremendous artist and also has a heart for kids,” Ostlund said.

The church has applied for a community grant to supplement its support of Arts After School, which will fund art supplies, instruments and provide a stipend for Shono, who is in the United States on a work visa.

The culmination of student’s efforts will be displayed at showcases held at the end of each semester.

“There’s something about performance that brings accountability, especially when you’re in a team,” Ostlund said. “It helps them perform up to their best and makes them better team players when they get to the workforce.”

The showcase would also provide a chance for families, friends and other arts supporters to appreciate the work of the budding artists.

“This would be a unique opportunity to see what is going on in the lives of our students outside of the school programs,” Ostlund said.

If the Arts After School program is successful, there is a possibility of adding classes in culinary arts, digital arts and dramatic arts.

“We felt like something we could use our space for and develop this program hand-in-hand with the community to serve students and hopefully fill the next generation with arts for all of us to enjoy,” Ostlund said.

There are a limited number of spaces available for students wishing to participate in Arts After School. An informational meeting for interested parents will be held in early August.

Journey @ McPherson is located at 201 E. Euclid St. in McPherson. For more information about Arts After School, visit https://jimo61.wixsite.com/macartsafterschool, email macartafterschool@gmail.com or call 620-615-2808.

Contact Patricia Middleton by email at pmiddleton@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.