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Kids Like Us gearing up for summer fun

John Thompson • Updated May 14, 2019 at 5:40 PM

ELIZABETHTON — It is going to be a busy June for the Kids Like Us Community Learning Center, located in the former Range Elementary School, 655 Watauga Road, Watauga.

The center will offer three back-to-back-to-back summer camps during the month, each with a different topic. They will include a camp featuring cooking, art and music skills; and featuring science and technology subjects; and a third will be about space camp.

In addition to the summer camps, there will be a Summerfest. Cindy Croy, community outreach coordinator said Summerfest will include plenty of music, inflatables, face painting, cotton candy and several vendors. Croy said the event also will include a beauty pageant in which every participant will win a crown.

The event at the learning center will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Lisa Lyons, founder of the organization, said the regular program will begin again on July 1.

Lyons said the learning center was created for children of all abilities, but the program is designed with the needs of children with disabilities in mind.

The center is dedicated to providing meaningful education and social opportunities for children of all abilities, throughout the Tri-Cities, from Johnson to Greene counties. Lyons said the education is free and the teachers are all unpaid volunteers. Sponsors and donors provide funds for expenses and costs, making it possible to provide free classes and services to the children.

The mission of Kids Like Us is that all children and young adults, regardless of ability or disability, should have the same opportunity to connect with others, to be able to learn and socially connect with new friends, and have a sense of belonging in the community.

Kids Like Us was created by parents, volunteers, educators, and others to provide a fun and appropriate environment for individuals of all abilities.

The volunteer spirit makes the costs free, but the volunteers are not limited to teaching and working with the children. Peggy Gale, volunteer coordinator for Kids Like Us, pointed out there are plenty of volunteer roles that don’t require the volunteer to be around the children, such as carpenters and other skills.

The old classrooms of Range have been coverted into different learning areas, ranging from reading and math rooms to one room dedicated to teaching life skills to teens, such as how to maintain living quarters, balance a checkbook, cook and clean.

Lyons said more of these rooms will be created as more students attend the center. She said one of the goals is to keep the number of students in each room at just a handful, keeping the class size comfortable for those children who are uncomfortable around crowds.

One of the areas where the center is expanding is with LiiNA, which stands for learning through interactivity intelligence with accountability.

LiiNA was developed by educators, engineers, and programmers to enhance communication and education for students with special needs.

LiiNA teaches and comforts students through interactivity. With sensory specific stations, including virtual reality, LiiNA provides a customized program for each student’s unique needs.

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