After teaching, becoming principal, coaching basketball and having the gymnasium at Clopton High School named after him through 32 years of service, no one would have blamed Dale Miller for putting himself out to pasture.
But that’s not Dale Miller.
“When I decided to hang it up in 2001, I knew I was going to do something, but I had no plans,” Miller said. “I still had opportunities in the school business but they were across the river.
“Jim Ross was the president of the (Twin Pikes Family YMCA) board and he said, ‘Dale, we need an activities director at the Y’ and he talked me into meeting with them.
“I said ‘I’ll do it, but not more than one year.’ ”
Miller filled in that year for the YMCA and then resigned his position.
“And then the opportunity came for the 21st Century Program,” and Miller knew he was the person to become its education coordinator.
The program serves 500 children per year after school and during summer camps, helping them with homework and life skills. It is particularly valuable to Pike County parents who have to work and can’t get home to tend to their children, Miller said.
The program is offered for all Kindergarten through sixth grade students at all Pike County elementary schools and for K-8th grade students at BONCL school.
Miller helped start the program in 2002, saw it almost die and then saw it rebound last year. Almost three months ago he retired — again.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do but I’ll stay busy somehow,” Miller said. “I might find something part-time because that’s the way I’m geared. I’m used to working.”
While Miller decides what to do with the rest of his years now that he’s 66, he remains proud of the 21st Century Program.
“The kids don’t have to leave school,” he said. “There’s a strong nutrition element and kids get a healthy snack every day. Otherwise, they would get hungry before they go home.”
However, the primary thrust of the program is to provide a safe haven for children and to help them keep up academically. The program is staffed by school personnel who are paid by the YMCA through grant funding.
“We started in March 2002 with the first five years of grants,” Miller said. “After-school programs were not well-known in Missouri and no well-accepted by some conservatives.
“We started hiring people at Louisiana and BONCL but Bowling Green elected not to participate because of the money commitment,” from using the Bowling Green Elementary School.
The Clopton School District also came on board and Bowling Green opted in during the second five years of the program starting in 2007. The program now encompasses the Frankford Elementary School as well.
During the 2007-2012 period, funding was cut in half and there were fears the program would collapse, Miller said. Funding for the program comes from the federal government and is funneled through the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
“It was a chore, but the YMCA board and those involved had the commitment to keep it going,” Miller said. “It would have been easy to say ‘we can’t continue,’ although Bowling Green was fully funded.”
The money was held up for the 2011-2012 school year and the program was in limbo until the second week in September.
“We actually had to lay people off, including myself, I went half-time, but then, the grants came in,” Miller said. The program was fully funded again in 2012 for another five years.
“We really owe a debt of gratitude to the school districts,” Miller said. “They had to make a commitment to transportation, providing snacks and a building to help the program and it involves a lot of people.
“It’s really been a very good program and it’s been great to see the parents, kids and school officials acceptance of it. The program has benefitted lots of kids and families. It’s been extremely worthwhile for the people of Pike County.
“We li10ve in a different world. There are more needs for some families than there has ever been. It works because the kids react to the staff and they love the program.
“I think kids learn to like school better because they are on a more personal level and they learn to like teachers better.
“I left the Clopton schools at an age when I could still contribute. The program allowed me to stay in education.”
Twin Pike Family YMCA Executive Director Marsha Garrison said Miller will be missed but his replacement has already been hired.
Tammy Hutchinson of Philadelphia, Mo. will take over as education coordinator of the program for the coming school year.