Area wins $3.4M for after-school programs for needy kids

Hundreds of young Dayton and Trotwood students will have access to high-quality after-school programming the next five years, after multiple agencies landed $3.4 million in competitive federal grants.

The 21st Century Community Learning Center grants announced this month pay for academic and other supports for low-income children who attend under-performing schools, according to the Ohio Department of Education.

Two years ago, the region had only two 21st Century grant programs. Last year the number grew to four, and this year, six sites will offer the after-school services – four in Dayton and two in Trotwood. Ritika Kurup, director of early learning at Learn to Earn Dayton, said each site can serve 80 to 100 children.

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“We can give kids opportunities to learn more, and we can have activities for them,” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said. “From the neighborhood perspective, kids who are in activities after school are less likely to get in trouble. On both the education front and the neighborhood quality front, this is a great big win.”

Four of the grants are newly announced five-year programs funded at $200,000 each of the first three years, then $150,000 in Year 4 and $100,000 in Year 5.

In Dayton, those programs will be housed at Fairview School (in cooperation with Omega Community Development Corporation) and Ruskin School, continuing their work with East End Community Services.

The Trotwood programs are through Trotwood-Madison City Schools and will be housed at Madison Park and Westbrooke Village elementary schools.

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Kurup said the programs will be up and running by October and will feature a variety of enrichment activities, not just an extension of the school day.

“Academics is a big piece of it, but it’s also project-based learning, youth development activities, including social/emotional things,” Kurup said. “And family engagement is a big piece, getting them involved in the child’s education.”

Those four grant programs join two others that are beginning Year 2 of a three-year funding cycle – a YMCA-tied effort at Dayton’s Cleveland School and a program at Dayton Leadership Academy.

“In total, that’s $4.5 million in the community for after-school programming for children, which is a really big deal,” Whaley said. “It shows our commitment that we’re paying attention to the children not just when they’re in school, but making sure they have quality opportunities all the time.”

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The best known after-school program in the city has likely been Ruskin’s Miracle Makers, partnering with East End thanks to a previous 21st Century grant. It offers students extra academic help, but also music lessons and exposure to theater and other opportunities.

Kurup said each program is a little different, as the Omega afterschool effort at Fairview will feature STEM learning (science, technology, engineering, math), while some of the YMCA programs have had more sports and physical activities.

Whaley’s City of Learners Committee has a work-group focused on summer and after-school opportunities, and she said the 21st Century grants could be a springboard to more chances for local kids.

“A lot of the other foundations that are interested (in providing funding) say if you’re not maximizing 21st Century grants, then you’re not serious in after-school programming work,” she said.

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Kurup said research shows after-school enrichment time is an “equalizer” for low-income students whose families can’t afford music lessons, tutors and other opportunities. She said the steady stream of funding pays for the quality level needed.

“A high-quality program needs qualified, high-quality staff – whether that’s certified teachers or trained after-school providers and youth services workers,” Kurup said.

The grant money will pay for that staff and can also cover transportation and curriculum costs.

“By working together with the county, the United Way and the city, and using the expertise of a grant writer (Amy Jomantas), it’s a good story about collective impact,” Kurup said. “Summer and after-school access has expanded because of the collective work of so many partners.”

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