After-school program sustains Scottsdale’s western spirit

Scottsdale fourth grade students participate in Horsense’s after-school program at MacDonald’s Ranch. (submitted photo)

For the past 16 years, Horsense has provided fourth graders with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take care of, and learn about horses — engaging the students in respect, responsibility and character development.

Held at MacDonald’s Ranch in Scottsdale, the program is a four-hour alternative after-school program for Title I students.

“The Horsense program provides Title I students in community schools, important health and safety programing, which is part of the state’s educational curriculum,” Health World Executive Director Peter Rusin said. “This knowledge will assist students in making better choices as they grow up, or when confronted with decisions on the use of smoking, drugs and alcohol.”

Incorporated in 1997, Health World is a nonprofit providing health and safety programs to elementary schools through its outreach programs.

More than a decade ago, Scottsdale Charro Jeremy Cohen approached Mr. Rusin about starting a youth equestrian camp.

“Jeremy Cohen, a Charro had a dream to create a youth equestrian camp for children to preserve our western heritage,” Mr. Rusin explained. “This camp was intended for children who have never been on a horse before or might not have the opportunity.”

The Scottsdale Charros stepped up to provide the seed money and manpower to start the program, thus making Mr. Cohen’s dreams come true.

“Without these supporters, this camp, which is in its 16th year, would not have been,” Mr. Rusin says.

The camp is now seeing older teenagers who went through the program return to help create the same memories and experiences.

“We have created a camp environment that inspires former campers to come back when they are in high school and volunteer at Horsense and share with us what an impact the program has been on their life.”

The knowledge learned through the Horsense camp assists students in making better choices as they grow up, or when confronted with decisions on the use of smoking, drugs and alcohol.

Over 300 students and 55 volunteers come together during the school year to create the after-school program a reality. The Scottsdale Unified School District has recognized the organization for its work with its students, noting the self-esteem and development of good character that is achieved.

“There are so many memories, but I think my favorite is watching the children, with all their big smiles and enthusiasm, get off the bus and be greeted by the volunteers with high fives and welcoming cheer,” Mr. Rusin recalled of the hundreds of students who go through the program.

Since 2001, the Scottsdale Charro Foundation has continued to promote and contribute to the Horsense program, with several members volunteering their own time on the ranch.

Go to horsense.org.

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be e-mailed at mfittro@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/melissafittro.

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