Blue River Services, Inc. has received funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant that will provide afterschool programming at North Harrison, Morgan, East Washington and Medora schools for the next four to eight years. Blue River Services was awarded $300,000 per year and Medora Community Schools, in partnership with Blue River Services, was awarded $175,000 for programming at the elementary and Jr. High schools.
The original grant cycle is for four years, beginning with the 2018-19 school year. However, for the first time, if grantees remain compliant with all expectations during the initial four-year period, the state will allow them to request annual extensions for four additional years.
The 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) program is a federally-funded program that provides at-risk students a safe environment during non-school hours. Programs may be held at one or multiple sites, which may be in schools, or community or faith-based facilities. All centers must provide a range of high-quality services to support regular school-day academics and development, including tutoring and mentoring, academic enrichment, such as homework assistance, reading, math, science, and technology programs, service learning, character education, physical education, recreational activities, and dropout prevention.
As reported by the Indiana Department of Education, this application round was “incredibly competitive.” Of the 94 applications received and nearly $23 million requested in funding, only 38 applicants received funding.
In addition to the schools mentioned above, Blue River Services provides afterschool programming at North Harrison Middle School, Eastern High School, and Medora High School.
“Our elementary programs focus on improving student achievement in reading and math, middle school programs concentrate on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), and High School programs work to enhance college and career readiness,” said Julia Baylor, Director of Children’s Services at Blue River Services.
Heather Richard, Afterschool Program Manager, added that a mental health component of the grant is a new and unique aspect of afterschool programming. Blue River Services will partner with Associates in Counseling and Psychotherapy to provide easy access to needed therapy and counseling when student problems or family concerns may be hindering student learning.
“Through this counseling and therapy programing, we will be able to provide a new facet of support services to students and families in the school setting,” said Richard. “We also will use this opportunity to look for ways to expand upon this much-needed service in the near future.”
With the constant threat of 21st Century funding being cut or eliminated, Baylor said the extended grant is “big news” for students and families. “I read recently that a major reason for wanting to cut this funding from the federal budget was because there is no evidence that the program has been effective,” said Baylor. “But nationwide 21st CCLC programs have been extremely effective (and critical) by providing quality extended day learning/afterschool programming for 1.6 million children annually. Programming is educationally based and designed to increase the students’ chances for success while in school and throughout life. “In my opinion, through 21st CCLC programming, America is getting way more bang for their buck than they realize.”
Baylor says Drug and alcohol abuse in the nation, especially rural areas, combined with child abuse and neglect, and poverty make teaching and learning difficult for children who hurt physically or mentally, are hungry, lack proper clothing, or live in unsafe environments, and low-income parents are often overwhelmed without the means to cope effectively – feelings that often get passed along to their children in the form of insufficient nurturing, negativity, and a general failure to focus on their children’s needs. “I cannot tell you specifically how other afterschool programs across the country measure up,” says Baylor, “but I can tell you for sure what the funding provided to BRS, Inc. accomplishes for the 450 students and their families that we serve.”
“Not only do we provide a vast array of programming, but we partner with local community action agencies to effectively make a positive impact on those struggling with alcohol and other drug abuse issues involving our youth,” she continued. “Our Afterschool programming is perhaps the only source of supplemental enrichment in literacy and math, nutrition education, technology, and extracurricular activities that many students may have. We work to connect students and families with community supports to ensure, we offer an effective and affordable way to help children and families overcome obstacles, we conduct food and clothing drives, and we level the playing field by ensuring that 21st CCLC students are afforded the same opportunities more affluent children have, such as gymnastics, music, dance and theatrical experience.”
“Essentially, we are conquering a wealth of social issues, one school at a time.”