— With a new academic year just around the corner, a number of schools throughout Genesee County are preparing to open the doors to children after school, thanks to a one-year, $3.1million grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to the Genesee Area Focus Fund.
The YouthQuest after school enrichment program, led by the Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce, will offer out-ofschool activities and services at 15 elementary and middle schools located throughout the community.
Out of those schools, Dye Elementary, Rankin Elementary and Woodland Elementary will offer the program for children in the community.
Mott support for the program, which was originally launched by the United Way of Genesee County in 1998 as Bridges to the Future, has totaled $20.9 million since 2000.
The Regional Chamber assumed administrative oversight of that program — now named YouthQuest — in July as part of a formal, long-term strategic plan. The Focus Fund is the nonprofit fundraising arm of the chamber.
William S. White, president and CEO of the Mott Foundation, said that YouthQuest reflects a natural evolution of after school in Genesee County.
For example, the Regional Chamber offers a number of successful youth education and development services, which can be effectively and efficiently integrated into the model.
“After school programs are about helping children expand their skills, interests and abilities, and connecting educators, parents and others in the community,” said White. “This grant, like those made nearly 75 years ago by C.S. Mott for community schools, reflects our belief in the importance of educational opportunity to the future of families.”
Similarly, Tim Herman, CEO at the Regional Chamber, said that YouthQuest will take a holistic approach to youth education and development. This includes enhancing students’ academic skills using proven after school-based learning techniques and offering enrichment activities in such areas as the arts, culture, health, fitness and nutrition.
And through the Regional Chamber’s existing youth programs, YouthQuest will help participants build such critical skills as teamwork and leadership.
Supporters of after school programming note that participation can lead to better grades, lower rates of truancy, more engagement in school, attainment of higher levels of achievement in college and a reduction in delinquency and contact with the police.
Advocates also note that for many working parents and guardians, after school programs help ensure their children are in a safe environment during the hours after school.
“YouthQuest will seek to advance such outcomes for families in Genesee County,” said Rhetta Hunyady, group vice president, operations and employer education and training at the Regional Chamber. “We know there is a large, underserved population of after school students in the community, YouthQuest will offer many of those students an opportunity to greatly enhance their academic and social skills, which will be significant strengths as they move into secondary education and beyond.”
YouthQuest will operate in selected schools Monday-Thursday for three hours after the regular school day is complete for 36 weeks of the school year.
A six-week summer program also will be offered. YouthQuest is provided at no charge.
Enrollment in the program is on a first come first served basis. More information and applications for enrollment are available online at www.yquest.org
or by calling the YouthQuest office at 810-422-5904. — Natalie Blythe