For the first time in a year and a half, the majority of Michigan’s kids are back in the classroom, making up for lost time and hoping to make big gains in educational development in the year ahead. While being back to in-person instruction is great for kids, the amount of social development lost during the pandemic means there is more ground to make up than just in academics.
Children’s development depends on learning the ABCs and 123s, but it also depends on how they are being challenged outside of the classroom space. Programs that spur interest in arts and culture, in civic engagement and even in athletics are essential to create brains and bodies that function in a full-time learning environment. Additionally, mental health and emotional well-being are critical in the current environment, when normal life has been turned upside down and kids need focus and stability to thrive.
Fortunately, there is a resource available in our community that offers an all-of-the-above approach: Out of School Time (OST) programming. As the local partner for OST, YouthQuest offers Flint families a dependable, enriching experience where kids can go during and after school to complement classroom learning. The programs boost students’ overall performance at school and contribute to work-ready skills such as teamwork, problem-solving, critical thinking and healthy decision-making.
YouthQuest faces the same challenge as many other non-profit programs: limited resources. With more resources available, we could serve even more kids and offer more and better programming. Because of COVID, kids need more supports than ever before-at home, at school and in-between. OST programs are the link between home and school that parents can count on to provide quality, impactful learning opportunities in a nurturing and uplifting environment.
While the pandemic claimed many of our resources, it brought an unexpected one: additional federal funding that allows Michigan the opportunity to invest in priorities that will shape our future for decades to come.
Kids need support outside the classroom, more than ever, and YouthQuest is up for the challenge. We’ll continue offering high-quality programs for as many kids as possible, but we need your help. Please join us in asking our elected officials in Lansing to direct American Rescue Plan funding to OST programs in Michigan’s communities. Our kids’ future depends on it. — Willie Buford, administrator of YouthQuest programs at the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce