(Flint, MI Wednesday, August 11, 2010) With a new academic year just around the corner, a number of schools throughout Genesee County are preparing to open the doors to children after school, thanks to a one-year, $3.1million grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to the Genesee Area Focus Fund.
The YouthQuest after school enrichment program, led by the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, will offer out-of-school activities and services at 15 elementary and middle schools located throughout the community.
Mott support for the program, which was originally launched by the United Way of Genesee County in 1998 as Bridges to the Future, has totaled $20.9 million since 2000. The Regional Chamber assumed administrative oversight of that program – now named YouthQuest – in July as part of a formal, long-term strategic plan. The Focus Fund is the nonprofit fundraising arm of the chamber.
William S. White, president and CEO of the Mott Foundation, notes that YouthQuest reflects a natural evolution of after school in Genesee County. For example, the Regional Chamber offers a number of successful youth education and development services, which can be effectively and efficiently integrated into the model.
“After school programs are about helping children expand their skills, interests and abilities, and connecting educators, parents and others in the community,” said White. “This grant, like those made nearly 75 years ago by C.S. Mott for community schools, reflects our belief in the importance of educational opportunity to the future of families.”
Similarly, Tim Herman, CEO at the Regional Chamber, notes that YouthQuest will take a holistic approach to youth education and development. This includes enhancing students’ academic skills using proven after school-based learning techniques and offering enrichment activities in such areas as the arts, culture, health, fitness and nutrition. And through the Regional Chamber’s existing youth programs, YouthQuest will help participants build such critical skills as teamwork and leadership.
“YouthQuest is designed to positively impact the academic and social lives of students,” he said. “With the help of our partners, including the C. S. Mott Foundation, the program will build on that mission and deepen its impact on children and families.”
Supporters of after school programming note that participation can lead to better grades, lower rates of truancy, more engagement in school, attainment of higher levels of achievement in college and a reduction in delinquency and contact with the police. Advocates also note that for many working parents and guardians, after school programs help ensure their children are in a safe environment during the hours after school.
“YouthQuest will seek to advance such outcomes for families in Genesee County,” said Rhetta Hunyady, group vice president, operations and employer education and training at the Regional Chamber.
“We know there is a large, underserved population of after school students in the community,” she said. “YouthQuest will offer many of those students an opportunity to greatly enhance their academic and social skills, which will be significant strengths as they move into secondary education and beyond.”
And Herman notes the potential for positive economic impacts in the greater Flint community.
“One of the building blocks of economic development is a well-educated and flexible workforce, he said. “YouthQuest and other youth-focused programs will help thousands of Genesee County students each year to build their skills, expand their learning and, ultimately, prepare for successful careers.”
YouthQuest will operate in selected schools Monday through Thursday for three hours after the regular school day is complete for 36 weeks of the school year. A six-week summer program also will be offered. YouthQuest is provided at no charge.
The Regional Chamber’s existing youth-focused programs are TeenQuest, Summer Youth Initiative and Career Preparation programming. TeenQuest is a pre-employment training program for area youths 14-18 years old. The curriculum teaches students the skills required in the work place during a free, five-week after school program. The Summer Youth Initiative provides funding to nonprofit and for profit organizations that hire TeenQuest graduates for eight to 10 weeks of employment. Over 500 students are employed through the program this summer. The programs are funded through C.S. Mott Foundation, Ruth Mott Foundation, the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, the Zonta Club of Flint 1, the Kiwanis Club and the Veit Charitable Trust.
The Regional Chamber offers a variety of interactive workshops and activities designed to help students explore their interests and abilities in a particular career pathway. In 2009, the Regional Chamber provided 279 workshops to nearly 13,000 students across Genesee County.
The following schools will have YouthQuest programs:
Carman Ainsworth Community Schools
- Dye Elementary
- Rankin Elementary
- Woodland Elementary
Flint Community Schools
- Brownell Elementary
- Bunche Elementary
- Freeman Elementary
- Neithercut Elementary
- Potter Elementary
- Southwestern Middle School
- Summerfield Elementary
- Washington Elementary
Mt. Morris Consolidated Schools
- Montague Elementary
- Moore Elementary
- Pinehurst Elementary
Montrose Community Schools
- Kuehn-Haven Middle School
Enrollment in the program is on a first come first served basis. More information and applications for enrollment are available online at www.yquest.org or by calling the YouthQuest office at 810-422-5904.
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