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Letter To The Editor: The Big Questions Communities & Parents Face Is How Programs Will Be Funded...

on October 22, 2019 - 7:00pm
Development Director
The Family YMCA

I too read the after-school editorial by Lt. Gov. Howie Morales that Morrie Pongratz referred to in his letter to the editor (link).

My first thought was, “I’m so glad Howie recognizes that!” There is a massive body of studies that essentially says youth should be given resources to help them develop. Dr. David DuBois of the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago has research that examines the contribution of protective factors, particularly self-esteem and mentoring relationships, to resilience and holistic positive development, and the translation of knowledge from effective youth programs. He has found that the mentorship of staff in quality after school programs can have as much of an impact in children’s lives as teachers.

In Los Alamos, in 1998, several community and LANL leaders formed a coalition to address the number of latch key kids, unsupervised from 3-6 p.m., the “dangerous time” when kids can find trouble if left alone. A LANL grant then seeded a schoolwide start up after-school program through The Family YMCA that continues to this day.

The Y program supports learning through homework help and ongoing service, arts, reading and challenge programming that the kids can opt into, as well as also free time for exercise and to help them expend energy and let them play. There are many other out-of-school time programs in our town provided by religious, for-and non-profit entitles – among them the Youth Activity Center. 

Separate grass-roots efforts by community members in Española and Los Alamos also prompted these local governments to create teen centers to provide guidance and support, and a place to unwind for the teenage population; in these cases The Family YMCA has applied for and been awarded contracts; we’ve been supporting Española teens since 2007, and Los Alamos high schoolers since 2011.

Today, the Los Alamos community is exploring service for the unique middle-school age population. These two teen centers, it must be noted, are paid for by government and some grants, instead of user fees.

But the big questions communities and parents must face, is how programs will be funded. To attract and retain caring, qualified staff requires they be paid a wage they can live on and there too have been numerous studies that the caring and teaching of youth in out-of-school times is often unrecognized and undervalued. The Boys and Girls Club programs are funded by federal tax dollars, many other programs are funded from parent-paid fees, which is the case with the Y’s elementary age after-school program. As a nonprofit, charitable organization we are able to provide financial assistance for those who cannot afford to pay through fundraising; this currently accounts for 60 families.

The Builder’s Club, and maybe other programs are lucky to have volunteer expertise and are wonderful for part-time supplemental learning. Society, communities and parents make the decisions on what is important for our youth, a transient (through aging) population in need of “resources” – caring adults to help them become thriving adults.