ASPIRE program prepares for 16th year of after-school learning and fun

BRATTLEBORO — Thanks to Meeting Waters YMCA, hundreds of kids in southeastern Vermont can continue to learn, grow, and thrive even after the bell rings at the end of the school day.

At least as importantly, says, Steve Fortier, the organization's executive director, that also means that several hundred parents can work with the peace of mind that their child is in a safe and nurturing environment.

“When [Y Program Director] Sue [Fortier] and I created Y-ASPIRE in 1998, we made sure that it would meet the needs of working parents,” Steve Fortier said a press announcement.

“What we do at ASPIRE is all about positive youth development. When we do, ASPIRE is all about supporting working parents,” he added.

Now in its 16th year of operation, the Y's After-School Program for Inspiration, Recreation and Education (Y-ASPIRE) takes place at Brattleboro's Oak Grove, Green Street, and Academy schools; Dummerston School; at Meeting Waters YMCA's Bellows Falls facility for students attending Saxtons River School and Rockingham Central School; and, new this year, Walpole Primary School, which serves youth and parents from North Walpole and Walpole Elementary schools.

The Y-ASPIRE program runs after school for each of the schools' 180 scheduled days. It also runs for full days on all school vacations and most holidays, as well as for half-days on teacher in-service and other early release days.

In all, the program operates for more than 210 days during the school year.

Each day of a Y-ASPIRE program includes physical activity, a nutritious snack, assisted study time, and a cooperative group project. Activities are centered around monthly themes.

Through various activities, students in Y-ASPIRE develop life skills such as cooperation, problem-solving, group decision-making, and leadership. They also learn more about themselves, their community and their world.

Service learning projects benefit other community agencies as well as the ASPIRE participants. Monthly family events focus on family strengthening and health.

Three other Meeting Waters YMCA programs complement the ASPIRE program to provide year-round “out-of-school” supports for kids and their parents. Their Kindergarten ASPIRE program runs during the first two weeks of school in Brattleboro.

During that time, kindergarten ends at 1 p.m., which provides a challenge for working parents. For the past nine years, Meeting Waters YMCA has filled that void. The regional Y's Snow Days Program in Brattleboro provides full-day care when schools are unexpectedly closed due to inclement weather.

And, when the school year ends, Meeting Waters YMCA's Lewis Day Camp - with busing from Brattleboro, Bellows Falls, Walpole, and six other Vermont and New Hampshire communities - kicks in to serve kids and parents in the summer months.

Financial assistance for all Meeting Waters YMCA “out-of-school” programs is available through the New Hampshire and Vermont Childcare Subsidy programs and Meeting Waters YMCA's Reach Out to Youth scholarship fund.

As in all of the YMCA's programs, no one will be denied access to ASPIRE for lack of ability to pay full program fees, Fortier wrote.

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