Name: Vichna Kanarek
Business Name and Position: JCCMP Girls Club, Director
Location: Kingsway Jewish Center, 2810 Nostrand Avenue
Number of Employees: 25
Years in Business: 4
1. We are so excited about the Girls Club! Please tell us a little bit about the program.
Thank you! We are having a great time. The JCCMP Girls Club meets every Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 1:40 p.m. You should know that despite its title, we have boys as well (nursery age). Our goal is to give kids a satisfying, structured, and fun day in a warm atmosphere. We engage in activities such as swimming, gymnastics, art and crafts, special projects, and we even take trips!
2. For what age group is the program intended?
We welcome all children from nursery age all the way to eighth graders.
3. Tell us more about your tots program.
The tots program, for boys and girls ages two to four, is designed differently from the other groups. These are younger children, so we make sure that the environment is super warm and nurturing with a professional morah and staff. We engage the children in age-appropriate activities like center time and circle time, and we, of course, love our music time. If the weather is mild, we even take the kids out to a nearby park.
4. Does the program include refreshments?
Of course. It’s a busy and active day, so the kids need to recharge by taking breaks. We provide snacks and drinks so they can refuel and get back into the action with even more focus and stamina. There is also the option of paying for lunch.
5. Do you offer instructional or free swim?
Both. We have five lifeguards: four instructional and one head lifeguard who monitors and oversees all pool activities. The pool is always kept warm and clean. We make sure that all the children get individualized attention so they can learn how to swim or perfect their current techniques. We have coached girls who have had a fear of water and swimming, and with the help of our lifeguards we were able to show them through games and patience that being in the water is possible and fun.
6. What if my child doesn’t have skills in gymnastics or swimming?
That’s okay! We have an inviting setting here where nobody expects you to be a world-class gymnast or gold medal swimmer (but we have professionals honing your skills if you are). We have kids here who can be a bit clumsy or unathletic, and we work on teaching them basic gymnastic moves such as back and front handsprings, somersaults, and backbends. We make sure to encourage and support everyone on their specific level of capabilities and skills.
7. What else does the program offer besides swim, gymnastics, and crafts?
In addition to the activities mentioned above, as soon as the kids enter, they are welcomed with catchy music playing in the background. While the kids are engrossed in their arts and crafts, they also have the option of singing on a nearby microphone. This livens up their day as they feel like superstars, making it an activity to remember far beyond just the craft. There will be select Sundays when we will host women from different sectors, such as local politicians, banks, Con Edison, and National Grid, who will speak to the girls and show them what they can accomplish.
8. What is the theme of this year’s program?
The theme for this year is “Fun and Friends.” I created a smiley faced logo with the words JCCMP written across the grin. Our slogan is “There is no other place I’d rather be” because once the kids enter the premises, they won’t want to leave.
9. What kinds of special projects are on the agenda?
During the early autumn months, when foliage was abundant on the trees, we took our tots out to collect multicolored leaves. We had them paint the leaves and create a fall collage. For the older groups, we found that kids, and girls especially, love personalizing stuff, so we are going to have fun decorating and personalizing items such as bags, T-shirts, umbrellas, and even chairs.
10. How do you encourage shy participants to be more involved?
We offer smaller groups so we can provide the one-on-one attention that makes kids feel at home. While interviewing counselors for the program, I made sure that the people I ultimately hired were those who love kids. I always remind them to be mindful of introverted kids and help them feel included.
11. I understand that this is your first year directing the JCC Sunday Girls Club. Which other programs have you directed?
I have been running Bais Yaakov Day Camp since 2014. It is a major operation with about 400 campers, so it requires me to start planning for it months in advance. Running a camp is intense. I make sure the day is structured with the children changing activities every 30 minutes. I have the head counselors dress up differently each day, and the kids love to see what they are wearing. I put together a weekly newsletter with colorful pictures of all our events so parents can see what we did every day.
12. What does a director do, exactly?
A lot goes into being a director of a program such as the JCCMP Girls Club. I am in charge of hiring staff and counselors, I arrange the trips, and set up the program’s theme and agenda. Being a director of any kids’ program means you need to be on top of your game. I am constantly researching and looking into the latest and greatest trends in kids’ entertainment. As a director, I am extremely hands-on with the girls and staff. I greet each child as they walk in and make sure to give them compliments and attention, so they feel welcomed and extra special. The rest of the time I oversee the activities of the day and work with the rest of the staff to make each day a successful one.
13. What is the secret to running a successful program?
It’s not about being fancy. There is no need for outlandish attractions or expensive gadgets. What it all comes down to is making everyone feel good. Here at the JCCMP Girls Club, we make sure to establish a connection with each and every child. Girls walk out of here with a smile and feeling like a million bucks.
14 .Why is there a need for a girls Sunday program?
Parents assume that kids will be sufficiently entertained by lounging around at home, but there are a variety of reasons why such a program is warranted and beneficial. For starters, this gets kids out of the house and off the couch. It also fosters socialization and achdus .Girls meet and interact with girls from other schools, and they become quick friends. Parents need to understand that not every child is academically inclined, but they are forced to be in such an environment from Monday through Friday. Having this program gives them the opportunity to shine. They may not excel in school, but here we give them the tools which will empower them; hopefully, they can take that positive attitude into the classroom as well.