By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published February 6, 2014
HAPEVILLE—The supply room at St. John the Evangelist School is packed from floor to ceiling with bins of board games, arts and crafts materials and books, as well as colorful costumes for theatrical productions.
It’s clear that Venus Price, director of the extended school program, has all the bases covered for the 80-plus students who stay after school each day.
Price, who has worked at St. John the Evangelist for 17 years, said she thinks of what she would want her own children to be doing after school.
“I’m a mom first,” she said.
Homework is taken care of right away. The children spend 45 minutes to an hour after the regular school day to complete assignments, receiving help where needed. “I have great aides,” said Price.
After the work is done, children can play outside and participate in activities such as soccer, karate, dance, chess, crocheting, computer lab, or the Big Thinkers science club.
“You name it, we have it,” said Price.
Working parents can pick up their children as late as 6 p.m. Morning supervision is also available.
St. John the Evangelist is a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence offering pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. Students come from 17 metro counties and represent many different cultures.
Drama, cooking club and etiquette lessons all help children prepare for the annual dinner theater show of the after school program.
While having fun, the students are also learning life skills and confidence and employing what they have learned in the classroom. For example, young cooks are using math skills when measuring ingredients.
“I piggybacked from Our Lady of Mercy,” said Price about the origins of the dinner theater production, held each spring.
The students prepare the food, interact with guests, and provide the entertainment for the dinner theater event.
St. John the Evangelist Principal Karen Vogtner said the ESP is not just day care but an “enriching” time.
“Any talent they have is going to come forward,” said Vogtner. “We have kids who don’t want to go home.”
Future after school activities will include STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) for third- through fifth-grade students. Price is also exploring foreign language immersion classes.
“She is always looking to improve,” said Vogtner about Price’s leadership. “It’s just a well-rounded program.”
Students can also spend quiet time curling up with a good book during ESP hours.
“We have a little reading station,” said Price.
St. John the Evangelist School has been important in the life of the Price family. Price’s husband, Zachary, attended the school, as did their two grown children, Quincy and Diandrea. Quincy now works in the performing arts, and Diandrea is an auditor for DHL.
“It is a home,” said Price about the St. John community.
Price started out volunteering at the school. Before joining the staff, Price was working in banking. Then-principal Sallie McQuaid would often come into the bank, and eventually recruited her.
Spending time in the faith-filled environment also led Price to convert to Catholicism.
“All I had to do was walk upstairs and pray any time I wanted,” she said.
Catholic school staff members often wear many professional hats as does Price. In addition to directing extended school, she also is the tuition accountant. This position allows her to get to know every family and what’s happening in their lives.
Since joining the school, Price has also served as Girl Scout leader and youth group leader at the parish.
Price and her late father, Henry Johnson, launched the middle school track program at St. John the Evangelist. “My dad coached track,” explained Price.
The father and daughter team brought in all the necessary track equipment for the athletes. Johnson died last April and influenced his daughter greatly in both work ethic and love of track. “I was a daddy’s girl,” she said.
When at home in Newnan, Price attends Mass at St. George Church.
As she takes an afternoon stroll through the school, Price stops to talk to students and gives a co-worker an encouraging hug.
“It is close knit,” she said about the environment.
“She is vital in the life of the school,” said Vogtner.
For Price, it’s all about providing leadership opportunities the students might not have elsewhere.
“I am not a teacher. I am a mom and these are my babies,” said Price. “We are learning together.”