10/15/2013, By Valley of the Sun United Way
Choosing Quality Out-of-School Time Programs for your Children
You love your child. You want them to succeed. You provide constant love and guidance, but when school is out, how can we keep their minds engaged and their development flourishing?
Valley of the Sun United Way and key organizations across the Valley understand this. We are parents too.
- In Arizona the average school year is only 180 days
- An average school day is approximately 7 hours
- Nearly 80 percent of children’s waking hours are spent out of school.
The Right Partner
As parents finding the highest quality out-of-school time programs, mentors, teachers, caregivers and friends for children is a top priority. But where do we start?
This week we celebrate the national Lights On Afterschool Week. Typically a one-day event, Governor Brewer extended it to highlight the valuable youth programs that take place during out-of-school time.
As part of the celebration, United Way and our partners at Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence are launching School’s Out, Make it Count: Arizona Quality Standards for Out-of-School Time Programs to help parents find the right partner for children’s success.
Because each out-of-school time program is different and caters to specific needs and interests, it is sometimes very difficult to compare them to determine the best fit for children.
One component of School’s Out, Make it Count: Arizona Quality Standards for Out-of-School Time Programs is a seven-point checklist to help when choosing a quality out-of-school time program for your family.
- Safe & Healthy Environments: Look at the number of staff in each room, are there quiet areas when children need downtime, are there activities that encourage youth to be healthy and active, and do program supervisors conduct regular health and safety program checks.
- Positive Relationships: Evaluate if your child can form positive relationships through the activities which involve, caring staff, volunteers or other program participants. In Tucson, the Oury Recreation Center KIDCO program gives teens responsibility for planning activities for younger youth creating both meaningful leadership and mentoring opportunities.
- Intentional Programming & Activities: Hands-on learning with the City of Yuma’s SHINE Program (Sports Helping Influence Neighborhood Excellence) provides character building and leadership development through physical activities. It’s important to evaluate how creativity and critical thinking are encouraged in any program.
- Equity & Inclusion: Does your program serve children with diverse backgrounds? What are the program’s fees and are scholarships available for families? Will your child have an opportunity to learn with or from those with different perspectives or cultures?
- Family, School & Community Engagement: As part of Girls on the Run, a non-profit youth development program in Flagstaff, pre-teen girls learn to make healthy life choices while training to run a 5K and participating in community service. Look for similar interesting, informal learning environments that will excite your child and help them make new connections out-of-school.
- Program Management: Are you in regular communication with the program’s leadership, and management? Don’t be shy about asking how much funding your child’s program has. Ask yourself; does the program’s mission and philosophy align with your own?
- Program Evaluation & Data: At Brisas Kyrene Kids Club in Tempe, afterschool staff meet regularly with teachers and administrators to evaluate the needs of students and connect afterschool activities with learning data from the classroom. How does your child’s program evaluate objectives or reassess goals?
What tips do you have for selecting the perfect out-of-school activities for your children?
Michelle Gayles is Vice President of Community Impact at Valley of the Sun United Way. She spearheads United Way’s Community Objective to Ensure Youth Succeed and directs initiatives and partnerships to increase the graduation rate in Maricopa County and leads community collaborations to improve quality for out-of-school time programs. She is a proud mom to her 19-year-old son Tony and believes all children and youth can succeed in our community.