By Melissa Turosik
The Youngstown State University Center for Human Services Development was awarded two grants for its First Step after-school programs in Girard schools.
The grants were received by the 21st Century Community Learning Center for after-school programs at Girard Intermediate, Prospect Elementary School and Girard Junior-Senior High School.
The grants total $1.7 million and will provide funding for over five years.
The program contributes opportunities for children who come from economically underprivileged families and attend low-performing schools to collect academic support, according to the Ohio Department of Education.
Angie Cameron, director for the Center for Human Services Development, said the grants are highly competitive throughout Ohio.
She said it is an exciting process for the center, as well as the school districts.
Cameron said the money received from the grants will help to implement the programs.
“Funding will cover supplies and materials, field trips, transportation home and salaries for staff to assist with their achievement. Funding supports all aspects of program management and implementation,” Cameron said.
Cameron said they provide a range of services to community organizations and school districts.
“The center provides services such as needs assessments, grant writing, program evaluation, program management, strategic planning and more,” Cameron said. “Currently, we have six 21st Century Community Learning Center grants that provide after-school programs to five districts, covering three counties.”
Craig Rodik, site coordinator at the Girard Junior and Senior High School, said there are over 32 students enrolled within the first month of the program.
Rodik said there were several parents and students that expressed interest in the program and we will be joining them soon.
He said the primary focus is improving the mathematics and language arts skills of the students.
“They are engaged in enrichment activities that incorporate those skills, but also adding leadership and social abilities through group interaction as well,” Rodik said.
Rodik said students will learn more as they progress through the program.
“As we move further into the program, the students will have a college and career exploration component where they will have opportunities to investigate different careers and career-technical futures through evidence-based strategies,” Rodik said.
Amy Klingensmith, site coordinator at Campbell Elementary, said they have seen an increase in daily school attendance because of the after-school programs.
“More kids would have to come to school to participate in the after-school program, so we’ve seen that and overall we’ve seen increases in reading skills and math skills. Also, retention rates have decreased,” Klingensmith said.
Klingensmith said parents should send their students to the after-school programs because it gives them something to do.
“Not every kid is involved in a sport, so it gives kids that age something to do after school and we provide bussing home so it’s about the freedom of parents not having to worry about picking up their kids to another activity,” Klingensmith said.
Additionally, Klingensmith said they take the students on field trips.
Cameron said they are working with five school districts in a three-county area.
“We will continue to work with school districts that are interested in implementing programs. The purpose of the Center is to assist organizations and school districts to help meet their mission and purpose,” Cameron said.
Cameron said they will continue to help children and provide the program if funding continues.
“As long as the federal funding continues, and there are districts interested, we will write for the opportunity to help children in the Valley,” Cameron said.