YMCA’s after-school program impacting area children’s lives
by By KATIE SHACKLEFORD Banner Intern
Sep 03, 2013 | 961 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
YMCA after-school program
Banner photo, Katie Shackleford
Kelsi Brock, left, Autumn Price, and Amanda Ledford enjoy their time at the after school program at the Cleveland Family YMCA.
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The Cleveland Family YMCA provides quality after-school programs to enhance the school day and give kids the extra advantage they need for a healthier, happier life.

The after-school programming operates on campus at all Bradley County elementary schools for children from kindergarten through third grade, and is open Monday through Friday immediately after school until 5:45 p.m.

“Our program operates YMCA standards of a combination of the spirit, body and mind component,” said Rodney Murray, senior program director.

The YMCA has a mind component that provides adult homework supervision to help kids get homework done while the information is still fresh, before sports practice or other activities, for example. Accelerated Reader is a tool used for monitoring and managing independent reading practice.

The Y program incorporates simple wellness basics with fundamental education on eating smart and choosing fitness as a lifestyle. Y-afterschool can also be a great resource for parents with children in extracurricular after-school activities such as sports or school-sponsored learning activities.

“It’s awesome,” Amanda Ledford said.

Surveys of more than 200,000 students in grades six through 12 reveal that external assets are powerful influences on adolescent behavior. External assets are given to children in the form of support, empowerment, constructive use of time, boundaries and expectations. The YMCA is intentional about building on those assets through positive programs and activities to help kids develop internal assets. Internal assets are possessed by individuals and are built through other people, such as gaining a commitment to learning and having positive values, social competency, social identity and more.

Y-afterschool uses the Developmental Asset Framework developed by the Search Institute in Minneapolis, which identified 40 factors that helps kids build social skills, develop strong character and make good life decisions.

Murray said children with more tools, more assets, more character, more responsibility and more honesty do better than others who don’t.

The purpose of the YMCA is to equip the next generation with the necessary tools for success, to contribute to society so society continues to grow, expand, develop and be better than it was before their arrival. In short, the mission is to build assets.

Each asset is to help young people grow up healthy, caring, and responsible.

“Everybody says they want their children to have it better than they did,” Murray said. “A lot of people quickly learn that doesn’t necessarily mean assets in the form of money. Sometimes it does mean money, but they are much better equipped when they are equipped with assets such as character and altruism.”

Helping to develop the asset of an unselfish regard for the welfare of others is a driving force of the YMCA.

“YMCA is not a youth-serving organization. It is a family-serving organization,” Murray said. “As a by-product, we serve youth. We serve adults. We serve everyone.”

Murray said people tend to use a deficit model or deficit approach. By that, he meant society tends to view the young man in prison and asks what was lacking in his life to cause him to wind up incarcerated.

“Well, everybody knows he didn’t have a dad at home … that had to be the cause. Or, he didn’t get enough spankings … that had to be what it was. His mother was on welfare and that’s what caused him to end up in prison. Or, his mother was on drugs and on and on and on,” he said.

“What we tend to do is focus on things we can’t possibly change. The asset approach focuses on the things we can change. President Barack Obama didn’t have a dad at home. Throw that out. Don’t worry about it. Don’t focus on those things you cannot change.”