Charlotte groups collaborating on after-school programs

From Susan Campbell, Executive Director, and Greg Schermbeck, Director of Education Initiatives, Council for Children’s Rights:

In a recent commentary, Karl Dean, mayor of Nashville, Tenn., and Betsy Price, mayor of Fort Worth, Texas, cited a study that showed “at least 77 large U.S. cities are coordinating after-school programs to expand and improve service for young people.” Council for Children’s Rights (CFCR) is proud to be a lead organization in Charlotte prioritizing and advancing out-of-school time (OST) programs in our community.

The merits and benefits of quality OST programming outlined by Dean and Price directly align with a need in Charlotte. Quality OST programs provide students with the opportunities to develop social and emotional skills, cognitive ability, and overall physical health. Further, OST programs enable students to improve those critical skills in safe, structured environments outside of school hours benefiting organizations, families, and children across our community.

On November 22, 2013, CFCR, in collaboration with providers and funders across the community, released Expand Learning: Building a Framework for Out-of-School Time. This report was the culminating work and collaboration of over 50 local organizations guided by the goal that “All children (K-12th grade) will have access to OST experiences that support learning, enrichment and health development.” The report also recommended that Charlotte, as a community:

•  Empower parents and youth with better information to make informed decisions about after-school and summer programs;

•  Increase the number of unsupervised youth enrolled in high-quality after-school and summer programs;

•  Raise the overall quality of OST program with a comprehensive quality improvement system, including a common and clear set of standards;

•  Establish a leader and lead organization with clear responsibility for supporting, promoting, and advocating for the OST sector in Charlotte.

Council for Children’s Rights continues to coordinate efforts to advance the collaborative achievement of all the recommendations. Additionally, CFCR is committed to delivering the following within the next 10 months to advance OST in Charlotte:

•  Provide a web-based Program Locator to help increase awareness and access to OST programs in Charlotte;

•  Communicate and engage the community with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Quality Standards for OST;

•  Connect OST programs with ongoing professional development and technical assistance.

This work would be impossible without the collaboration of community partners. Organizations like the Arts & Science Council, Gantt Center, the City of Charlotte, and Citizen Schools are assisting in communicating OST Quality Standards. UNCC is aiding in the creation of the web-based Program Locator and many more organizations are providing input to truly impact OST in Charlotte.