YMCA Engages Children During Critical Hours

Kids and staff give the thumbs up to YMCA after-school program. Courtesy photo

YMCA News:

During the school year, 15.1 million U.S. children are left unsupervised after 3 p.m., according the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit public awareness advocacy organization.

These findings are based on their “After 3 p.m. Survey.” Specifically, the results show that in New Mexico 22 percent of K-12 youth are left alone giving them the responsibility of caring for themselves.

After-school programs allow parents to ensure that their child’s well-being is monitored, said Janine Morales, Los Alamos Family YMCA childcare director. A body of research underscores that the after-school hours for children ages six to 14 are a period of unusual risk and opportunity. The risks range from boredom, worry and idleness, to self and socially destructive behavior, she said.

Opportunities for engaging in meaningful activities can boost children’s academic success, as well as keep them from dangerous situations. To help motivate and inspire kids to continue to learn and be active, The Family YMCA offers an afterschool enrichment program for school-aged children in Los Alamos and White Rock.

“We strive to create an environment of overall well-being for kids. Though homework support, a balance of guided activities and unstructured play, and an emphasis on health and wellness, we are able to transform the school gymnasiums into safe and enriching spaces that promote growth for all,” Morales said. “Guided activities include arts and crafts, music and dance, physical education, sports, nutrition, and much more. Our structure and programming is much more favorable than letting any child in this community go unsupervised.”

“The Search Institute, through their Developmental Assets research, have found that when youth have safe environments in which they can build caring relationships with adult mentors, the benefits last long into their teens and adulthood,” Morales said. “Youth build positive social skills, they have better grades, they dream bigger, and more importantly they have the drive to make those dreams a reality. My job is to seek out those individuals that can make a positive impact on kids’ lives outside of the home and the classroom. The best part is knowing that once we’ve made that connection, we can take pride in having a hand in these kids’ futures. All the kids know is that they are having a really good time with some ‘super cool’ Y staff after school.”

The Y offers several day options at the school sites, and a Wednesday-only, environmentally-based option in partnership with the Pajarito Environmental Education Center(PEEC), where parents must transport children to PEEC.

Financial assistance is available to parents of children who live or work in Los Alamos thanks to the Y’s annual support campaign and support from The United Way of Northern New Mexico.

Information about these programs can be obtained by calling the Y at (505) 662-3100 or visiting www.laymca.org.

Interactive learning activities are part of the fun at the YMCA After-School Program. Courtesy photo

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