• Parkway-Rockwood Adventure Club.

As we mark Afterschool Professional Appreciation Week, it’s time to turn our attention to the unsung heroes who are the driving force behind afterschool programs. While the Missouri AfterSchool Network has raised awareness of the week, the local celebrations taking place in communities across the state provide the direct recognition and appreciation to the afterschool staff.

MASN staff recently interviewed Leanne Cantu, administrator of the Parkway-Rockwood Adventure Club in St. Louis County, to learn how she is recognizing her staff this year. Cantu’s journey in youth development began over three decades ago, and her leadership has been instrumental in shaping the Parkway-Rockwood Adventure Club into the thriving community it is today. However, Cantu is the first to acknowledge that none of it would be possible without the incredible team of afterschool professionals.

With over 30 schools under the program’s umbrella, the Parkway-Rockwood Adventure Club is not just an afterschool program; it’s a tight-knit community built on compassion, dedication, and a shared commitment to nurturing the next generation. At the heart of it all are the remarkable individuals who dedicate their time, energy and passion to creating a safe and enriching environment for the children they serve.

From rookies to seasoned veterans, the afterschool staff members are mentors, role models and friends to the children they serve. With around 200 employees across the program, Parkway-Rockwood Adventure Club boasts a diverse team of enthusiastic professionals, many of whom have dedicated decades of service to the program.

To honor their tireless efforts, Parkway-Rockwood Adventure Club hosts an annual Staff Appreciation Night, a celebration filled with laughter, camaraderie and heartfelt recognition. This year, a trivia night will showcase the deep appreciation that Parkway Rockwood Adventure Club has for their staff.

During Staff Appreciation Night, the hard work of the Parkway-Rockwood Adventure Club employees is recognized through awards like the “Rookie of the Year” and the prestigious “Bonnie Vento Starfish Award.” Named after the program’s first coordinator, this award is the highest honor one can receive and pays tribute to her enduring legacy. Additionally, Parkway-Rockwood Adventure Club takes the time to recognize milestones of service, celebrating employees who have dedicated years –in some cases, decades – to the program.

But beyond the awards and accolades, what truly makes Parkway-Rockwood Adventure Club special is the support among its staff. As Cantu puts it, “Our staff are the backbone of our organization,” and it’s clear that their dedication and passion are what makes this a truly exceptional program.

To the Parkway-Rockwood Adventure Club team, and all afterschool professionals across the state: your dedication, compassion and unwavering commitment inspire us all. Thank you for everything you do.

The Missouri AfterSchool Network (MASN) is hosted by the University of Missouri Extension’s 4-H Center for Youth Development with national and state funding provided by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, STEM Next Opportunity Fund and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

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