Kenowa Hills — Seventh-graders Amaya Elliott and Ryker Brown have been friends since second grade.
Their many shared interests include collecting and playing with Pokémon trading cards after school.
“I like coming to Pokémon club because I get to hang out with my friends,” Amaya said.
Added Ryker: “I also come for the snacks.”
Kenowa Hills Middle School social worker Deric Chiles started a trading card club three years ago with eight students who met once a week. Now, almost 50 students attend one or both of his two meetings per week.
“These kids get to hang out, trade and play cards but the main thing we do is social skill-building,” Chiles said. “We’re providing these kids, from all backgrounds and abilities, opportunities to talk about something they love.”
Before taking a hiatus for spring sports, the club members are helping Chiles with a service project close to his heart.
“We’re making packs of sports and Pokémon cards to donate to the kids getting rehabilitation services at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital,” he said. “I know the kids need things to keep them entertained, so we hope they will enjoy playing with these cards as they heal.”
Never Too Old
At their Tuesday meeting, the students gathered around a basket of Chile’s sports cards to sort them into piles.
Amaya, Ryker and their friend, seventh-grader Tyler Grootters each counted out 20 cards per pack. They were instructed to finish packing the sports cards before they could count and sort the Pokémon cards.
“In regular school, you can’t talk about Pokémon because not everyone likes them or cares about what you’re talking about,” Tyler said. “When I come here, I can hang out with my friends and we can talk about Pokémon.”
In addition to creating a community for trading card fanatics, Chiles teaches them the value of the cards in their collections. A few students said they look for valuable cards to sell and make money on the side.
Chiles’ knowledge of the cards also helps him build connections with his students.
He queried, “You might get too old for Pokémon, but do you ever really get too old for Pokémon?”