Afterschool program supports kids, working parents, and employers

Y-ASPIRE prepares for 18th year of serving local students

BRATTLEBORO — For the 18th consecutive year, Meeting Waters YMCA's after-school program, known as Y-ASPIRE, will provide important supports for hundreds of area youth, their working parents, the businesses that employ these parents, and the seven communities served by the program.

According to Meeting Waters YMCA Program Director Susan Fortier, Y-ASPIRE was designed in 1998 with a focus on multiple benefits.

“When Steve [Fortier, MWYMCA executive director] and I created Y-ASPIRE 17 years ago, we applied all of our knowledge and experience in positive youth development, after-school programming, and family strengthening. As parents of two young children at the time, we also built in considerations of parents' needs - like all-day programming when schools are closed for in-service days, vacations and even most holidays.”

Fortier said that, by doing all of that, “we are supporting more than 200 youth each year, the many hundreds of working parents and caregivers of these young people, the businesses that employee the parents, and the communities served by our programs because we are developing important life skills during 'the danger zone' each and every day.”

According to Fortier, research shows that “the danger zone,” from 3 to 6 p.m., is the time when children not enrolled in enriching after-school programs are likely to be physically inactive, not engaged in learning, and introduced to unhealthful behaviors.

“With our focus on the Developmental Assets approach to youth development-which research shows helps young people reduce risk behaviors while also building thriving behaviors-we are much more than a 'safe haven.'”

Yes, she says, the program keeps kids safe. “But, while we have these 200 or so young people in our care, we are developing building blocks that help them develop life skills and life habits that will serve them well into middle school, high school and into adulthood,” she adds.

Y-ASPIRE takes place at Brattleboro's Oak Grove, Green Street, and Academy schools; Dummerston School; Putney Central School; Rockingham Central School (which also serves Saxtons River Elementary School and Westminster Center School); and Walpole, N.H., Primary School (which serves North Walpole and Walpole Elementary schools, as well).

Each day of a Y-ASPIRE program includes physical activity, nutritious snack, assisted study time, and a cooperative group project. Activities are centered around monthly themes such as Different But the Same, Our Community, and Kindness and Justice.

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.

Periodic service learning projects benefit other community agencies. Monthly family events focus on strengthening healthy family habits.

Financial assistance for all Meeting Waters YMCA's Y-ASPIRE and other “out-of-school” programs is available. As in all of the YMCA's programs, no one will be denied access to Y-ASPIRE for lack of ability to pay full program fees.

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