GENESEE COUNTY — As families around the country face the potential loss of local afterschool programs, children in Flint will have continued access to afterschool and summer learning opportunities over the coming year, thanks to a $3 million grant announced last week by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.
The grant provides support for YouthQuest, a comprehensive afterschool and summer program delivering educational, enrichment and physical fitness opportunities to more than 2,000 students in grades K-12 annually. It is offered free of charge at all schools in the Flint Community Schools (FCS) district, as well as International Academy of Flint and Dye and Randels elementary schools in the Carman- Ainsworth Community Schools district.
The announcement comes on the heels of a federal budget proposal that would eliminate funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative. In the late 1990s, Mott partnered with the federal government to test and expand the initiative, which is now a vital source of support for afterschool programs serving 1.6 million children around the country.
The proposed federal cuts would create a funding gap that no other sector, including philanthropy, could fill for our nation’s children, said Ridgway White, president of the Mott Foundation.
“In communities around the country, the available 21st CCLC funding hasn’t kept pace with the need for high quality afterschool programs,” said White. “Through our support for YouthQuest, we’ve sought to ensure that all Flint kids and families have continued access to such opportunities.
“That being said, any cuts to 21st CCLC would inevitably impact Flint, where we would likely see a reduction in available services and perhaps in the number of program sites. As we wait with the community and the nation to see how policymakers respond to the proposed cuts, I want to reassure Flint families that they will still have access over the coming year to the great services and support YouthQuest provides.”
Linking students to quality learning opportunities is central to the YouthQuest model, says Tim Herman, CEO of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce. The program, which is administered by the Genesee Area Focus Fund, a supporting organization of the Chamber, offers research-based afterschool and summer activities that reinforce academic learning, including science, technology, engineering, the arts and math (STEAM), as well as activities that promote physical fitness and youth leadership.
“YouthQuest benefits Flint youth and their families in so many ways,” said Herman. “And that’s never been more true than in the wake of the Flint water crisis.”
Thanks to specialized training, staff are helping to identify possible health, development and behavioral issues related to lead exposure, and the program is connecting families with information and services intended to mitigate the effects of that exposure. Students also participate in community service, volunteering at local nonprofit agencies responding to the disaster, and they have helped launch neighborhood recycling programs to dispose of plastic water bottles distributed throughout the community during the crisis.
Current FCS, IAF, Dye and Randels students can register online to participate in YouthQuest. In-school registration kicked off August 7 for students enrolled at Freeman Elementary and will be available later in the month at other participating schools. More information is available atwww.yquest.org.