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 C.I.R.C.L.E.S., a program aimed at building self-esteem. This year’s summer camp will be held June 2-7 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 fourth year for the camp at WWU.
At least 20 fourth- and fifth-graders will participate in the summer camp for the first time. In addition, four 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.
Janet Danuser, a WWU alumna from Fulton and member of the university’s board of trustees, has provided ongoing support for the program. The division of equestrian studies at William Woods provides 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, year-round C.I.R.C.L.E.S. Club, which provides William Woods students as mentors for the young participants. About a dozen WWU students have been involved each of the last two years.
“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.