There are many demands in today’s society and parents need all the help they can get, so offering after-school care can be a breath of fresh air.
There are many reasons after-school programs are so important. “Many families have parents who both need to work during the hours when their children get out of school and up until dinner time,” said Benjamin McCue, the assistant youth director at the Worcester JCC in Worcester, Massachusetts. “Having an after-school program where their children can be involved is crucial to the welfare of their family.”
Another benefit of offering after-school care, according to McCue, is the enrichment and social engagement children are able to receive and take part in during the program. “Building a community is important,” he explained. “If we offer good programs and keep children engaged, we are keeping them off the streets, and not allowing them to find themselves in bad situations to make bad or life changing choices.”
The Worcester JCC offers their program for children in kindergarten to sixth grade. They typically enroll around 125 children, who all are registered for certain days a week. This gives their program anywhere from 80 to 100 children serviced daily.
Their program runs from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and they provide bus transportation from the children’s schools to the JCC — a great addition for families who need this service.
It takes a lot of work and planning to successfully run an after-school program. However, McCue said it can be done if you have a great team. “Ultimately, having great trained group leaders who follow directions is important to effective programming,” he explained. “Honestly, you need to know the children you are servicing. If you see what they are into, learn it, get into it, play it and run it. This will help in curbing behavior management, bullying and boredom.”
In reality, there is much more that goes into Worcester JCC’s programs, but McCue wants community rec professionals to think about this scenario: “A child just got out of school, they want to release their energy, and we want them to do that positively while enjoying themselves in group settings, offering social and emotional engagement. That being said, we also want them to go home with a smile on their face, and when their parents ask them how after-school was, we want them to say, ‘Awesome!’ Then we did our job just for that day.”
To McCue, that is the bread and butter. In order to make that happen, he has to make sure the JCC is consistently training their qualified staff, keeping an eye on any safety risks, and continuously changing activities and programs. This ensures children are having a great time with the and wanting to be part of their community.
In the end, the best way to program for children is to bring out your own inner child.