APOYO starts new after-school sports program “Amigos Atléticos” with $22,500 grant from Kittitas County Public Health Department

Northwest Expressive Arts Response offers corresponding after school program


Photo courtesy of APOYO on Facebook

Omar Benitez and Katherine Camarata

Amigos Atléticos or “athletic friends” in English, is a new sports club started by Allied People Offering Year-long Outreach (APOYO) aimed to help youth around Ellensburg get active and spend time outside after the withdrawn nature of the pandemic.

The program was first started by APOYO Administrative Assistant & Amigos Atléticos Program Director Jesus Erasto-García and Assistant Director Fatima Andraca back in September.

APOYO first received funding for the program in July, according to Erasto-García. They prepared for the program throughout last August and September. September 27, 2022 marked their first day of activities. 

“We wanted to help rebuild the community after the problems we had that came with COVID-19, and our focus for this program is getting kids back outside after the pandemic that forced many to quarantine and be indoors,” Erasto-García said.

The club hopes to achieve this by meeting three times a week for workouts. Amigos Atléticos also has three meeting locations: the CWU Recreational Center, Morgan Middle School and Garage Studio Fitness.

The workouts include games of dodgeball, basketball, soccer, flag football, pickleball, badminton and group classes at Garage Studio Fitness.

The club is open to any students from the sixth through tenth grade in the Ellensburg area and will last through March.

APOYO is striving to combat the lack of access to extracurricular sports activities for minority and low income students and other underprivileged youth.

Amigos Atléticos is offered to all youth completely free and gives underprivileged youth the opportunity to play sports and go to the gym, a chance they may otherwise might not have.

“I think it’s very hard for some people to access things like gyms and sports clubs, especially if you’re in the low income spectrum of it,” Andraca said. “Having this opportunity helps invite people and lets them know, ‘hey, this option is available for you and it’s all paid for.’”

“With the pandemic and the isolation that many students faced … I think just giving them the opportunity to get out there, do some fitness programs and socialize with other people in their age range could help a lot,” Erasto-García said.

APOYO’s Amigos Atléticos program has partnered with a local nonprofit organization called Northwest Expressive Arts Response (NEAR), an organization that provides mental health counseling and expressive arts programs to immigrant and other underserved populations in Kittitas County and beyond, according to NEAR’s founder Nan Doolittle. 

Doolittle said after receiving a $25,000 grant from the  Yakima Valley Community Foundation, she offered to use some of the money to create an after school program available to families involved in the Amigos Atléticos program. NEAR’s additional after school program is called “The Thunder Years.”

So far, students and adults have been hungry to express themselves and have readily built and decorated personal art, danced and moved, listened to music, and shared stories,” Doolittle said.

Any high school or middle school students interested in participating in either program can sign up at apoyo-community.org or by calling APOYO’s office at (509)-201-1820.

Updated for accuracy.