After noticing an increase in discipline between Thanksgiving and holiday break, Omak High School principal David Kirk reached out to the community to open a space for any school-aged child to have access food, friends, and fun, and created the 3F club.
Interested in this program? Read the full interview (edited for clarity) below.
AWSP: Why did you start the 3F Club?
David Kirk: I taught for several years in Moses Lake and as a teacher I really didn’t see it but becoming an administrator you see it at a different level, the gap between Thanksgiving break and Christmas break where you see discipline
go up. For a long time, I didn’t understand why. I come from a two-parent household, my parents weren’t rich and famous, but they always made Christmas good. And it’ didn’t make sense to me at first but there are households
in our community where holiday break is not good, and home may not be a safe place. I realized that when we’re talking about going on winter break and having turkey ham and roast beef, or we’re going to do a gathering and all those things,
that some of our kids in our community and in my school won’t get that. And their stress level starts to rise between Thanksgiving and Christmas break because everybody’s talking about what they’re doing for break. And sometimes
kids their outlet for stress is acting out and not really good behaviors. And then you see that discipline.
For a long time, I just brought it up as a prayer request to my church, and the church ladies kept coming to me after prayer requests and asked what they could do about this. I would reply that we can’t, that it’s way too big of an elephant.
There’s so much logistics, so much legal barriers, there’s so much red tape that we can’t solve this problem. I finally decided to voice this idea and the suggestion to my local Kiwanis group. And one of my friends asked why can’t
we do it? She’s very optimistic and positive and said hey, let’s see if we can’t figure this out. We started trying to eat the elephant one bite at a time, and now we have the 3F club.
We were trying to figure out what to call it. The first idea was “Gap Coverage” because of the gap between the beginning of winter break and when school started. But the name didn’t work out. Someone said kids like being a part of a
club. They like being part of an association, a group of some level. So if you can make this a club, they’ll have ownership because they’re part of this club. Then we had to figure out what to call the club. The concept behind it is that
it’s food, friends and fun. That’s how we came up with the 3F club. Those are the pieces that hopefully they’re getting here during the week.
Where does it all happen? How does it work?
We use the high school, it’s centrally located in our town, and as the high school principal I have the keys, I know the alarm code, I know where the garbage can liners are. I didn’t want this to be a burden on my custodial team, so I clean
up after our event and so that way it’s not a burden on anybody else. My custodial crew does an amazing job of keeping my school phenomenal looking. I don’t need them working any harder than they already do.
When I went to the superintendent and asked to have access to the school, knowing that we were supposed to rent it and we’re supposed to pay for all those things. He said this is a community outreach, the Kiwanis group can have it.
We run it from 9am to 1pm every day during winter break except for Sundays and the two holidays. The reason why not Sundays was that my first thought on who would come and manage this and helping the elephant was that I was going to go after churches.
We have several churches and a community and churches already have a function on a Sunday afternoon. It would be hard for me to try and convince them to come and manage my project. It was originally going to be 10am to 2pm, because my thought process
was that I was trying to meet that lunchtime, that middle piece of the day. And when I went in when presented this to the Chamber Commerce, one of the gals who’s in chamber, she’s also in Kiwanis, owns and manages the two local movie theaters
in town, and she said, Hey if you move this earlier and go 9 to 1 I can run a free movie from two to four on a few of those days, and that still gives me enough time to run the movie and then still run my evening shows for profit. The program just
How did the rest of the community get involved?
I started going and talking to different service groups and organizations. I went to several different individuals from chamber throughout the community; I even went to the Okanagan Chamber of Commerce, five miles south of us. Different groups offered
to volunteer, so our local work source takes a day, the Okanagan County Community Coalition I’m a part of takes a day, my favorite day last year was the law enforcement day. From the coalition I have access to several different groups, and last
year the law enforcement officers the sheriff’s department Omak City Police, Washington State Patrol, Washington State Fish and Wildlife police all showed up. They were all suited up in their regular garb but could come and hang out with kids
and it’s an opportunity for kids to understand that law enforcement officers are regular people who go home and have regular lives, but their function their job is to enforce the laws, and you often see police officers on your worst day. The
law enforcement officers get to hang out with kids on their very best day tomorrow. So that’s a pretty exciting opportunity.
What do kids do when they’re here?
This year our Kiwanis Group has purchased a bunch of board games. Last year for our very first iteration of this, my children and I went through our house and figured out all the board games and puzzles and coloring books and things for kids to go and
have fun with. Our school district our high school has its own ping pong table, so we got the ping pong table out. But this year we decided to take it up one step and we used our public relations officer and our Facebook account for our school and
said hey, is there anybody out there who’d like to donate some fun activities. And in doing so I got a Pop-A-Shot, a full blown 9ft long wooden shuffleboard table, fresh out of the box, an air hockey table and foosball table. All donated. They
said we could have these if it’s going to be something to help engage kids. When our basketball team is not practicing, we can go down to the gym and shoot a few hoops. We’ve got a Rubik’s Cube teaching kids that apply the Rubik’s
cube, and coloring books. It’s open for all ages, so we had to have a variety of different activities for them to do.
Who can come?
Anyone who is school aged can come. This is open to not just for the Omak school district but it’s open to any kid who needs to be here. We’re not going to card kids at the door and say, oh you’re from Okanagan, you’re not part
of this program. This is a this is a community outreach, not an Omak school district event. So it’s open for any kids who are school aged, and the reasoning why is that I just didn’t want to deal with diapers. But any kid who needs to
be here, for whom this is going to be a fun safe place for them to be, because home may not be safe or mom and dad may have a job from 9 to 5during the day; and although it’s great that some families that have time off with kids, for some it’s
a burden. Middle school or elementary kids are not old enough to be on their own. So hopefully this provides an solution for them.
Who can volunteer?
Adults, as long as they’re connected to whatever organization are more we welcome, but Omak isn’t any different than any other community. We do have a homeless population, and one of the big fears is that we didn’t want to create an
environment where adults were coming into this. My objective is to be protecting and ensuring safety for our students. Some of the big red tape that we were worried about is fingerprinting and background checks. You have to have the right people here
and people who are OK to be around students and children. And that’s again why I targeted churches because they do a good job of vetting their own programs and their volunteer programs. That’s some of the scary red tape out there that
you’re creating an environment that could be a target for people who shouldn’t be here.
The other piece that is really hard for us and that we haven’t figured out yet is transportation. Last year our local transportation offered free bus passes and they gave 500 free bus passes for that time frame. That’s great, but I have an
eight-year-old son and I wouldn’t give him a bus pass. Our school district does a great job with protected bus drivers and bus routes and parents understand that system, but you can’t run a school bus because that’s a gift of public
funds when you’re not in function. Having a good reliable transportation system to allow our community members to get their children here is still one of those pieces that we haven’t figured out how to do.
It’s not perfect yet. If we can figure out that transportation piece, and we do it, we try to do it with good job of advertising, we put it in a local newspaper. I go on our radio before the event and then we do backpack mailers, where we send home
the flyer, and hopefully that gets home to parents.
What about liability and insurance?
The Kiwanis group carry the insurance waiver, so we assume the insurance and liability for the building during those 11 days. That manages that piece and then the school district allows us to support the facilities to be here.
How much does it cost?
All the funding goes through our Kiwanis group. That way it’s not a gift to public funds. That’s why the service organization is helpful. I reach out to a couple of our groups, I go to the Chamber Commerce in Omak, the Chamber of Commerce
in Okanagan, our local Rotary, our local Kiwanis and see if they’d be willing to donate funds. Then the Kiwanis group uses those funds and then we go and buy breakfast, a couple boxes of doughnuts, some fruit snacks, oranges and stuff like that
for breakfast, and then whoever the sponsoring group of that day is responsible for bringing in lunch. Today the coalition is coming in and they’re doing sloppy joes and Chili.
Sometimes you have a group out there that says they’ve got a funding source but not the manpower to go and cover a day, and then you have places like our local library who said they’ve got manpower, but not a funding source. So I was able
to connect our local Behavioral Health Center’s funding source to our local library for service.
You can get creative on how to meet two of those needs together. Both of the groups have helped and were amazed because they were able to participate in this event. The cost doesn’t have to be extreme. Our local Weinstein beverage donated a bunch
of water and pop and juice and stuff like that, our local grocery store donated plastic wear and plates and napkins so we can serve pizza and sloppy joes. The donations are turned around and used to buy breakfast items and snack foods and trail mix.
The community was really eager to help. I was really excited about that. I saw this as a need, I just didn’t know if everybody else saw it.
When you point out that for some kids Christmas break isn’t that fun exciting time, pocketbooks open up pretty quickly because the parents and the community want to try and serve those needs and help out. It’s really a great opportunity for
our community to reach out and support our own.
What has been the outcome so far?
Talking about the outcome is tough, because you want happier kids, you want healthier kids, and every school district, ours notwithstanding, is trying to increase school engagement, student happiness and decrease student discipline. We’re all doing
several different things to try and make this work. I don’t know if the 3F club is helping. I can just tell myself that it’s not hurting, and that’s what I’m focusing on. I’m meeting a need, at least a perceived need.
I’m not fixing the problem with the 3F club. It’s just in case, encouraging kids because a kid who’s feel safe, feels valued, hears their name in a positive way and gets a little nourishment in them is going to be a healthier, happier
kid and healthier happier kids have less discipline problems. So it’s hard to measure what we do during these two weeks over the 180 school days but I’m just praying that it’s making a positive influence on our students and they’re
becoming better people for it.
What are your hopes for the students that come here?
My hope is that they have an opportunity to hang out with some amazing adults. I heard a really neat acronym, NASA, Nice Adults Standing Around. They create relationships and friendships either with other students who show up or other great amazing adults
in our community and have people who they can trust if they need to. That’s what I’m hoping for our students. Getting their lunch, we also generate what I call a Go-bag, a reusable bag that’s got a peanut butter and jelly and a tuna
fish and a couple of canned soup and a loaf of bread and some fruit snacks. And I’ve got a few of those around the facility and let kids know that if they aren’t going to be we’ll make it back tomorrow but be back here in a couple
of days because they can be out of town or can get transportation that they can grab when does go bags and there’s a kind of hopefully meet the same needs at home. And so I’m hoping that in the end that our kids are cared for.
Any advice for a principal who would like to copy you and start a similar program?
Feel free to reach out to me. I can guide you on some of the landmines that we skirted and some of the pieces that we did. I would partner with a service organization and have them parent this project. Although I’m a high school principal I’m
also the treasurer for our Kiwanis and I’m the board chair for our coalition, and Kiwanis and the coalition are two of the eleven groups that come over. We keep hearing that it takes a community to raise a child or a village to raise a child,
activate your village. There’s a lot of people who want to help out. And when you think about fixing all eleven days that’s too much, but if you can get them to donate $100 to buy a couple of pizzas on one day, then you’ve maybe
solved a meal for that day. Start small with community members who have the same vision as you.
And then again don’t hesitate to reach out to me, I’d be more than happy to answer questions or e-mails and hopefully your program is just as good or way better than mine.