The Boys and Girls Club has long been known as a place for after-school programs, but for many children it is so much more.
The club’s Genesee Street location means that many of the youngsters who visit it come from needy families. Children from low-income families are also often left alone after school due to their parents, or single parent, having no choice but to work and having little to no support for costly at-home child care.
According to the Child Care Council, the weekly child care rate in Monroe County for children ages 6-12 is $200, which would total approximately $10,400 a year. According to ACT Rochester, the median household income as of 2013 is $30,875, causing at-home child care to cost as much as 25 percent of a family’s income.
ACT Rochester studies further show that the child poverty rate in Rochester soared from 38 percent in 2000 to 50 percent between 2009 and 2013 – a noticeably larger number than New York State’s 22 percent in 2013. Poverty can impede a child’s ability to learn and is a large contributing factor to social, emotional and behavioral problems, according to a study done by Princeton University. Unfortunately, with little guidance or supervision, many of these children are also at risk for being exposed to dangerous behavior, such as gang activity and drug use.
This is where after-school organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club are so crucial.
According to Koralee Bernardo, director of development, The Boys and Girls Club of Rochester sees approximately 2,500 kids ages 6 to 18 at its Genesee Street site each year, a number that is expected to rise in the future.
Overall, enrollment in Rochester after-school programs has seen a significant increase since 2013, according to ACT Rochester. In 2013, 1,802 Rochester students were registered in afterschool programs. While enrollment did see a decrease over the next three years, in 2015, the numbers have risen to 1,973.
The average number of children who attend an after-school program every school day has gone up by more than a third in two years, from 655 in 2013 to 908 in 2015. An even larger increase can be seen in the number of program sessions in the community. In 2013, 118,509 programs were available. Today, that number has seen nearly 50,000 additions with the number of sessions available being at 163,426.
All of these after-school programs, including those offered by the Boys and Girls Club, are the focus point of the Greater Rochester After-School Alliance (GRASA). According to its website, the main goal of GRASA is to focus on the issue of accessibility to high quality afterschool programs along with strengthening the “professionalism of youth programs.”
“National research indicates that significant, sustained participation in after-school programs contributes to youth success in school and in life,” said Mairead Hartmann, program officer at the Rochester Area Community Foundation and co-chair of GRASA. “Additionally, after-school programs keep kids safe, support working families and strengthen the current and future workforce.”
In addition to offering children a safe place to stay, the Boys and Girls Club also offers programs and events for all ages.
“We have a multitude of programming, ranging from academics to social and emotional programming, to teen clubs and technology,” Bernardo said.
Examples include an accelerated reading program, media arts, a biking program called “cyclopedia” and sports programs such as tennis and golf. According to the Boys and Girls Club website, the club also offers family support services, like a summer respite camp. During this six-week camp, youth with developmental diseases participate in activities such as swimming, visits to museums and area parks and access to the Buffalo Bills training camp at St. John Fisher College.
“After-school programming gives youth a place to be after school ends,” said Bernardo in regards to why these programs are important to the Rochester community. “Three [p.m.] to six [p.m.] are the hours for kids to be most likely to take part in risky behaviors. After-school [programming] allows them to have guidance.”
The Boys and Girls Club has proved to be a valuable asset to children while they are in school. According to the club’s 2013 annual report, one in five American high school students do not graduate on time. However, of those teens who are members of a Boys and Girls Club, 97 percent are expected to graduate with their classmates. In addition, students who attended the club were in school 40 hours, approximately one week, longer over the full school year than those who did not participate in the club programs.
“Learning happens anytime and anywhere,” said Hartmann. “High quality after-school programs provide a safe, supportive, enriching and engaging environment. In after-school settings, you often explore the world through hands-on learning activities that not only strengthen academic competencies, but are also fun.”
Looking towards the future, Bernardo says that the Boys and Girls Club plans on continually expanding in order to reach more children and families. In June, construction started at the Genesee Street location to expand the club headquarters. According to the official project description, the building will grow from 18,000 to 28,000 square feet.
New features being added include a fine and performing arts area with new music and art rooms, along with dance and recording studios. Expansions will also be made to the reading and tutoring program space in order to help more children with reading and homework. The club will also be adding green technologies in order to teach members more about math and science. The final additions include improvements in safety and security by adding security cameras and decorative fencing. According to Bernardo, the renovations are expected to be completed by January 2016.
Expansions such as these and the current programs offered by the Boys and Girls Club will expand its outreach into the Rochester community, which is crucial for children and families in need. According to the Afterschool Alliance, 20 percent of New York K-12 children are responsible for taking care of themselves after school. In addition, 49 percent of children K-12 children in New York are not currently enrolled in an afterschool program would most likely participate in one if it were available to them.
“There’s 1.5 million kids in the country who don’t have a place to be after school,” said Bernardo. “We want to make sure they have the ability to get a hot meal and make sure they’re engaged in high quality programming instead of possibly being exposed to risky behaviors.”
This story by Caitlin Dickerson is part of a journalism collaboration between WXXI and St. John Fisher College, giving aspiring student journalists the opportunity to report on and create stories for WXXI listeners, viewers, readers.