OGDEN -- Gone are the days when school children would board a bus headed to the YMCA. Now, the YMCA comes right to the child with 14 after-school programs at schools throughout Weber and Ogden school districts.
Jennifer Mortensen, site manager for the YMCA After School Program at James Madison Elementary, said it is a great way for students to have supervised, structured time as well as some great play time.
Students come into the gym or other designated area, have a snack and do homework and then go outside, play games or participate in a class. 4-H clubs are also a part of YMCA programs at many of the locations.
"They have been a great partner for us," Mortensen said.
One of the most successful things 4-H has brought to the YMCA programs is a cooking club.
"The kids love it," Mortensen said. It has a two-fold purpose: to teach the kids real cooking skills and provide them a chance for a nutritious snack.
The junior high schools also offer similar programs, but with activities geared toward older students.
"At the YMCA, we are committed to nurturing the potential of every child and teen," said Marsha Prantil, director of Youth and Family, YMCA in Utah.
One of the keys to YMCA's success is having qualified tutors who help the students with homework so that is one less thing for parents to worry about after a long day at work.
"We really do have a lot of compliments from parents about our homework," Mortensen said. "These parents have worked a long day and it is nice for them to not have to worry about homework."
Mortensen knows another reason parents like the after-school programs is that they know where their kids are.
"It's somewhere safe to be after school," Mortensen said.
According to the Afterschool Alliance, a non-profit public awareness organization, 15.1 million children are left unattended after 3 p.m. in the United States. In Utah, 28 percent of children fit into that category. Prantil would like to see that number go down, with YMCA programs filling that void.
"In our after-school programs, hundreds of youth are cultivating values, skills and relationships, and have an extra support system that encourages them to achieve success," she said.
James Madison has a successful YMCA after-school program with about 40 to 50 kids per day, but others are growing to appreciate the community feel that comes with YMCA. Mortensen loves coming to work every day and seeing the growth of the kids in the program. Many of the students who don't speak English as their first language are also getting quite a bit of English tutoring.
"Seeing the kids grow and their exposure to English is going really well," Mortensen said, even from the beginning the school year just over a week ago.
The cost for the program is about $150 per month, but many students can apply and qualify for financial aid which cuts the cost significantly. For more information check the website, www.ymcautah.org or contact Jan Smith, elementary program director, at 801-839-3380 or email@example.com or Tracy Davidson, junior high program director at 801-839-3382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Schools offering YMCA after-school programs
- Dee Elementary
- Gramercy Elementary
- Heritage Elementary
- James Madison Elementary
- Lincoln Elementary
- Polk Elementary
- Shadow Valley Elementary
- T.O. Smith Elementary
- Washington Terrace Elementary
- West Ogden Youth Center
- Highland Jr. High
- Mound Fort Jr. High
- Mount Ogden Jr. High
- Sand Ridge Jr. High