OGDEN -- While teaching at a local elementary school, Marsha Garfield Prantil noticed many of the students lingered behind after school because they had nothing to do until their parents got home from work.
At the time, there was an increase in latchkey children because both parents had to work. Prantil wanted to help both her students and their parents, so she approached her principal about developing an after-school program.
During the next 35 years, Prantil expanded that after-school program to all of the school districts in the Top of Utah and helped to merge the program with the YMCA.
"My goal was to provide an educational program that connected the regular school day with after-school activities in providing a seamless service for the student's education," she said. "Over the past 22 years, our programs have served over 15,000 students."
Prantil recently retired as senior director of youth and family for the YMCA of Northern Utah. She wants to continue volunteering her time with the kids she has helped for 35 years.
"One of my major concerns with the families we serve is the lack of family involvement," she said. "The research shows that when parents are involved with their youth, it results in academic and social success."
Prantil said the YMCA and the school districts plan to initiate more activities and opportunities to involve families in their child's education. The YMCA provides family nights and family involvement activities that engage the parents in the child's education.
"Another concern is to keep youth active. We have a childhood obesity problem and kids today are happy with screen time and not so excited about outdoor play," she said. "The Y's focus area of healthy lifestyles provides events that engage students in physical activity and learning about nutrition for healthy bodies."
Born and raised in Ogden, Prantil graduated from Ogden High School, Utah State University and Nova University. Her father, a schoolteacher and businessman, taught her the value of hard work and instilled in her a strong belief in the education system. She has overseen 20 after-school programs during her career and has witnessed many success stories.
"Looking back over the years, there have been so many successes. There have been so many families so appreciative of the program. Many families request a certain school to attend because of the quality after-school program provided," Prantil said.
Many of the students who have attended have shown an improvement in both academics and behavior, Prantil said. One student who comes to mind was depressed when she entered the program. Prantil watched her turn into a happy, successful child. Another child, very quiet, emotional and traumatized by a divorce, attended the program and his emotional behavior improved as well.
"He became more physically active, he was given some leadership roles and his self-esteem improved," she said.
Prantil, as one of the founders of the Afterschool Utah Association, designed and provided programs that have been modeled throughout the state. She is also a founder of the Utah Afterschool Network that provides advocacy and policy for after-school programs in Utah.
She served as a national endorser for school age accreditation, established the Ogden Area Youth Alliance, received the Child Abuse Prevention Council Child Advocate Award, was selected as teacher of the year for the Ogden School District and received the Afterschool Local Leader Award from the Afterschool Utah Association.
Last year, she received the Mattie Wattis Harris Making the World a Better Place Award from Your Community Connection.
Now retired, Prantil said she and her husband, Joe, will spend more time visiting children and grandchildren out of state. She said she also plans to keep working or volunteering with kids in some fashion.
"I have a strong belief that to perform quality work in education you need to have a passion for what you do, with a strong desire and commitment that you will make a difference in a child's life," Prantil said. "My greatest memory is getting to know the children and the families that we have served and to hear how our program has made a difference in their lives."