Recall a core memory from your childhood or recall someone that made an impact on you in a short amount of time.  Being a kid, there were always the older teenagers or adults that seemed so cool acting as an older brother or sister.  On the other hand, many adults that spend time with a younger child will remember the experience of interacting with a loving child even if the child’s memory begins to forget.  On each side of the relationship, it is a valuable experience. Towards the end of January, the RiverBend Growth Association Young Adults Committee (YAC) involved themselves with learning about and volunteering at Kreative Kids. Kreative Kids is a nonprofit learning center and daycare organization for children. The YAC came to the building and hosted several activities to embrace their gentle side of characters and have fun helping kids.

In mid-December, a few members of the YAC from East Alton-Wood River met with CEO Keith Neuber to interview and learn details past the surface about the organization. In this meeting, Neuber began by describing the background of the organization and the origins of how he came into his position. Originally, the building was McKinley School at 121 W. Elm St.  Kreative Kids started as a daycare that allowed the parents and children to find comfort in being there, but as the decades progressed, it transformed into an educational, loving, and morally instilled organization as Kreative Kids advanced with Neuber.

Neuber makes sure that each educator at his organization is qualified in each aspect of childcare, and noted that almost all of his teachers have been involved for decades because of their tremendous amount of love for the job. This selection is to ensure that each child is going to be treated with patience and care.  Neuber brightly exclaimed that while he, a teacher, or a parent could be having a hard day dealing with the judgment and difficulties of life.  By stepping into the Kreative Kids environment, it has never failed for them to grow a smile as they are met with all the students’ vibrant faces and joyful voices.  Because of this, Kreative Kids continues to foster a positive environment for anyone that comes. Neuber fell into this position because he ultimately wanted to make a difference in society. About 25 years ago, Neuber had the loss of his child and ever since then was inspired to work with the youth and found joy in teaching them. He realized that life was too short to not pursue what he was passionate about.

Recently, the Kreative Kids moved buildings. Neuber said: “Unfortunately, that building is 100 years old and it has all of the challenges associated with a 100-year-old building.” Their old building was in need of improvement as they continued looking to progress after receiving a Child Care Restoration Grant in late 2021. “For the past five years, we have been searching for a place we can call our own.” The new building located at 3048 Godfrey Rd in Godfrey, Illinois allows them to have enough space to fit every kid and more into the program as they gained two acres of property.  With this, they soon look to add more room by either adding on or building an additional building out back of the facility. Nonetheless, the organization was still thriving with their limited space in Alton with registration seats overflowing at times. Knowing this, the public waits to see how much more Kreative Kids will advance as they continue to grow.

Every week at Kreative Kids, the teachers assign a theme to their educational classes and activities. For the YAC’s January involvement activity, the students and mentors arrived at Kreative Kids at 8:00 am. Neuber thanked the students for coming and explained a quick rundown of the schedule. First, the YAC created masks out of paper plates using pipe cleaners, pom poms, and endless other craft materials. Each student’s creative freedom sparked as they created clowns, lions, chickens, and more.  By bringing out the students’ inner child again, they were able to have more fun with the children (3-6 years old) as there was no pressure to be perfect around any of them. The students were split into two groups; one conducted a circus wagon activity and the other helped create the children’s own desired masks.

Members of the Young Adults Committee were welcomed with open arms by the staff and children, as we were also to help them create their own masks.  The circus wagon activity helped the kids create wagons that would carry the kids’ stuffed animals during a future activity. These wagons were made out of cardboard boxes with construction paper and then decorated with markers and more to fulfill the kids’ desires.  During this, students read books to the children and played with each kid’s favorite toys.  At the end, all the children rallied and performed a parade throughout the building with their hand-made masks.  Staff, teachers, and a few parents stood around to cheer and wave at the children as they proudly marched with their high school student buddy before hugging them and eventually departing.

As soon as everybody in the YAC was seated again, Neuber opened his arms and asked, “So, did you guys have fun?”  Immediately, the entire group’s faces lit up to exclaim, “Yes!” Neuber elaborated that everybody needs to feel like a kid again every now and then, and that to be able to share memories and teach the children is a great experience for the committee to have.  EAWR’s mentor, John Barnerd, commented, “It was probably the best event we have done since I have been a mentor in this program.” Clearly, a deeper understanding of both the importance of youth and passion for the community unraveled that day for not only the students, but mentors as well.

The next time an older student or mentor is seen connecting with a younger child, the Young Adults Committee will be sure to look at it in a different light and appreciate the experience so much more.  By intertwining both the professional young adults and the free-spirited children in one facility, it created a new perspective of the enjoyment and importance of learning.

About The Authors:

Mary Nguyen is a senior at East Alton-Wood River, as well as a second-year member of the RiverBend Growth Association committee.  She has consistently participated in Volleyball, Cheerleading, Track & Field, Soccer, and Cross Country.  Additionally, Mary is a member of Drama Club, Peer Leadership, Big Sisters, National Honors Society, Renaissance, and is the President of Student Council.  After graduation, she plans to pursue a career in biomedical engineering.

Mia Seibert is a senior at East Alton-Wood River and has been an active member of the RiverBend Growth Association for two years. During high school, Mia has been involved in Band, Varsity Cheerleading, National Honors Society, Spirit Club, Saturday Scholars, and Big Sisters. After graduation, she plans to attend college to pursue a career in athletic training.

Kylen Johnson is a junior at East Alton Wood River High School and has been an active member of the RiverBend Growth Association young adults committee for one year. During high school, Kylen has been involved in Volleyball, Cheer, Peer Leadership, Renaissance, Saturday Scholars, Big Sisters, and soccer. After graduation she plans to attend college and pursue a major in early education.

Mia Plumb is a junior at East Alton-Wood River High School and has been an active member of the RiverBend Growth Association for one year. During high school, Mia has been involved in Varsity Basketball, Big Sisters, Student Council, Volleyball, Renaissance, and Saturday Scholars. After graduation, she plans to attend college to pursue a major in business and real estate

Jacob Schaper is a homeschooled high school student who cares about our community and making the world a better place to live in. He is the recipient of the Bronze Presidential Volunteer Service Award, Regional Scholar Award, and Maxima Cum Laude honor. Jacob is a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society at Lewis & Clark Community College, and President of the Eta Sigma Alpha Homeschool Honors Society.  All the while, he is co-teaching a class for middle schoolers about the mechanics of robotics using legos.  Jacob is planning on going to college to pursue Mechanical Engineering.