C.I.R.C.L.E.S. Program Teaches Equestrian Skills to At-Risk Youth

William Woods University’s world-renowned equestrian program will be open to at-risk youth again this summer, thanks to generous community support of a program aimed at building self-esteem.

Dollar General Corporation, the Fulton Housing Authority and local resident Janet Danuser are helping to sponsor this year’s C.I.R.C.L.E.S. program May 27-June 1 at William Woods.

C.I.R.C.L.E.S. (Community Inner Reach: Children Learning Equestrian Skills) is a Fulton community-centered program, designed to teach students skills and values that are associated with the care and riding of horses. It is fashioned after similar programs in other cities. This is the third year for the program at WWU.

Twenty fifth-graders will participate in the program for the first time. In addition, two older youngsters who participated last year and continued to be involved in the C.I.R.C.L.E.S. Club throughout the academic year will serve as “junior counselors.”

“The young people involved in the C.I.R.C.L.E.S. program will have the opportunity to learn marketable skills, confidence and self-esteem, while enjoying a positive, educational experience,” Linda McClaren, assistant professor of equestrian science at William Woods University, said

With the support of its Fulton distribution center, Dollar General Corporation in Goodlettsville, Tenn., contributed $2,500 to C.I.R.C.L.E.S. Another $1,500 came from the Fulton Housing Authority to support the participation of some of its residents. Janet Danuser, a WWU alumna from Fulton, provided ongoing support. The division of equestrian studies at William Woods will provide the facility, horses and staff.

According to McClaren, “Programs like C.I.R.C.L.E.S. have demonstrated the ability to teach children communication skills and responsibility, both of which are an integral part of learning horsemanship.”

Kathy Kusner, a three-time Olympic rider and founder of “Horses in the Hood” in Los Angeles, Calif., says that such programs are driven by the belief that people learn by doing and that education should be rewarding and fun. . .The experience of working with horses is conductive to forming emotional bonds.”

The C.I.R.C.L.E.S. program is a service-learning program. Students were invited to participate based upon their individual desire to work with horses and their need. A “work to ride” contract was made with each student, calling for them to trade the time spent caring for the horses for time spent learning to ride.

When the students are not riding, they will be busy doing stable chores in the barn, including feeding and washing horses and cleaning stalls. In this way, they learn marketable skills that will enable them to care for horses. Participants will receive an official C.I.R.C.L.E.S. t-shirt, a pair of Paddock boots and a disposable camera with which to record their experiences.

The cost to sponsor one child is $250, and sponsorship opportunities are still available, both for this year and next, according to McClaren. She also hopes to expand the ongoing C.I.R.C.L.E.S. Club.

“If we had more money, we could expand the program and help more kids,” she said.

For more information about the C.I.R.C.L.E.S. program, contact McClaren at (573) 592-1101.