Once upon a time ... in Seneca

<I>The Eagle/Cheryl Jessup</I><BR>Melinda Mitchek checks over books and other materials for her weeklong summer reading program coming up Aug. 10-14 in Seneca's city park. This is the second year Mitchek has run the program, which is for children ages 10 and younger.

SENECA - Thanks to an energetic teen, youngsters in Seneca have a fun week of reading - and more - coming up this summer.

Melinda Mitchek, who aspires to a career in teaching, will hold a "Read in the Park" program from 9-11 a.m. Monday-Friday, Aug. 10-14, in Seneca's city park.

It's the second year that Mitchek, 14, has run the program, designed for children ages 10 and younger.

More than just storytime, Mitchek's program is heaped with activities for the minds and bodies of busy young ones.

She has gathered resources and prepared a whole curriculum of activities. Like last year, each day will include a story, a physical activity (this year it's yoga), a craft project, snack time and a lesson.

This year's theme is "Balance for a Healthy Life."

And it's all free.

Last year Mitchek had up to 14 children attend on some days; she is planning for as many as 24 this year. Parents do not need to stay with their children, but are welcome to do so.

Mitchek, the daughter of Joe and Amy Mitchek, will be a freshman at Grant Union High School in the fall. She has an older brother, Matthew, a sophomore at Grant Union.

The family moved to Seneca from Payette, Idaho, about 2-1/2 years ago. Her father works for Crown Cattle Company.

According to Mitchek, she has always loved school and wanted to be a teacher as far back as she can remember, usually taking on the role of "teacher" when playing "school" with friends.

One of Mitchek's first teachers, in fact, told her parents at conference time that she "was bossy in a good way and would be a great teacher one day."

Her ideal teaching level would be grades 3 and 4, "before the world becomes dramatic," as she put it.

She got an early start in the literary world, with a book she wrote, "The Duck in the Mud Puddle," for a class assignment three years ago.

And Mitchek has recently taken on leadership roles at school. As class president, she started a recycling program there, and led the fund-raising efforts for the eighth-grade field trip last year. She babysits for the PTA, as well as for families around Seneca.

Mitchek was also chosen to receive a $500 Seneca Loggers Memorial Scholarship, an honor announced at eighth-grade graduation a few weeks ago.

For her "Read in the Park" program, Mitchek raised about $70 for supplies from a bake sale she held during the Oyster Feed last May.

Other funds have come from companies like Wal-Mart, which again this year provided a gift certificate for craft supplies; Dannon and Dole were on board last year.

She said she's always looking for more sponsors or resources, especially for craft supplies, which she said are the most costly.

Many of the books have been donated. Agencies such as the Forest Service and the Environmental Protection Agency have provided some of the lesson-related materials too.

Mitchek said she decided to start up the summer reading program mainly because "there's nothing up here for kids to do."

"It's something easy enough for me, and entertaining and educational for the kids."

What's the most important thing she's learned along the way?

"Don't underestimate yourself and what you can personally do," Mitchek said.

"It might be hard at first, but just keep at it and you'll succeed."

For more information about Mitchek's reading program, call her at 541-542-2740.

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