New District 69 program will offer after-school enrichment

Beginning next February students at Lincoln Junior High will have access to a new after-school program designed to give them a boost academically, socially and emotionally.

“I am thrilled. I can hardly contain myself,” said Quintin Shepherd, superintendent of Skokie-Morton Grove District 69. “This is the culmination of what has been a few years of work for us.”

The program will be operated by Youth Organizations Umbrella (Y.O.U.), an Evanston-based non-profit that runs similar programs in Evanston Elementary District 65.

The program will run from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and will include time for homework as well as recreational activities such as field trips.

“It’s exactly what we do in Evanston,” said Seth Green, Y.O.U. executive director.

The program, expected to start by February, is designed to help students who may not have as many out-of-school opportunities for growth as some of their counterparts.

In particular, Green said, students with working parents or those who come from low-income families will benefit from the activities offered in the program.

“Our goal is to address what we believe is the opportunity gap in racially and ethnically-diverse communities,” Green said. “We know these gaps are the largest where there are low-income youths.”

He noted, however, that the program will be open to all Lincoln students. At the same time, though, it is geared for students who may not have other options for out-of-school enrichment.

Shepherd said he does not know how many will be able to participate when it starts in February.

The plan is to offer the program after school and then provide a daylong summer program, Green added.

The program came together when District 69 officials were connected with Y.O.U. through the Northwest Suburban United Way.

The program will be funded by a grant from the Illinois State Board of Education for $150,000 a year for five years.

“We’re thrilled to have seeded this

partnership,” said Marcia McMahon, chief professional officer at Northwest Suburban United Way.

Green credited the United Way with putting him in contact with District 69.

“The United Way was really the connecting tissue,” he said.

Shepherd said a key for District 69 will be developing statistics from the program as to how much it helps students in school. That information, he said, will then be used to try and obtain additional grant funding for more programs.

“We’re trying to rack up data on the effectiveness of the program. Data is so much a part of what we do in District 69,” he said.

Officials plan to look at such things as attendance, behavior and academics and determine if the program helps students improve in those areas.”

“It sets us up for more grants. It helps us to develop more programs like it,” Shepherd said.

The Evanston program has shown the kind of results Shepherd is looking for, Green said, with students enrolled in it demonstrating improvements in school.

Green said Y.O.U. will provide the staff for the program and is in the process of interviewing people for the job of director. District 69 is providing space for the activities.

Initially, Green said referrals will come from teachers, social workers and parents. His goal is to have about 75 kids enrolled eventually.

“We’re very much referral-based,” Green said. “Once kids are in the program parents tell their friends. Our greatest recruitment comes from our families.”

Shepherd said that in addition to helping students’ development, the program will offer parents a good place for their kids to be after school.

“Working parents will now have a safe, structured, supportive program for their children to go to each day after school and over the summer.”

“We want these kids to have a brighter future,” Green said. “We’re really excited to be a part of this.”

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See the original article in the Morton Grove Champion

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