SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- Dozens of kids from Guadalupe are receiving a trip to a live theatrical production and a special luncheon today through a Santa Maria Valley YMCA program that has reopened this year.
Previously known as GenSpan, the program was created by local resident Franziska Shepard as a non-profit, community-based organization.
The goal of the organization was to provide cultural enrichment opportunities for children who would never be able to these types of experience with the support of the program.
"They will remember it the rest of their lives," said Shepard. "Just the atmosphere. Just the learning. How does it feel? They will walk in next time and feel confident."
GenSpan sunsetted in 2018, but continues on at the Santa Maria Valley YMCA. However, due to the pandemic, it was paused last year.
This year, it has been brought back and is being held this afternoon for 43 third grade students from Mary Buren Elementary School.
Kids are being treated to a lunch at Golden Corral restaurant in Santa Maria, where they will learn a bit about public comportment, etiquette and social skills.
"We teach them proper etiquette," said Richard Batalla of the Santa Maria Valley YMCA. "How to eat in public. We give them the basic knowledge of what they need in order for them to be able to be social in a respectful way in public place."
It's part of an effort the YMCA to help kids "re-socialize" as they integrate with their peers following many months of isolation during the pandemic.
After lunch, the children will be bused a short drive to Allan Hancock College, where they will be treated to a live PCPA theatrical production inside the Marian Theatre.
The children will be in attendance during a regularly scheduled matinee performance of The Secret Garden: Spring Version, which is serving as PCPA's holiday show this season.
"They get to experience a whole cultural dynamic that's something these kids haven't really experienced," said Batalla. "Some of them have never been to PCPA, so you're introducing them to new things. You're feeding their mind, which is going to open their mind way more. They're going to understand there's more things out there than just Guadalupe."