Introducing...The Leader Within

Created on 8/3/2010 5:16:43 PM
Teen After School and Out-of-School Program
After school, or out-of-school time programs as they are often called, are becoming more and more popular. According to the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, “findings from a study conducted by the Afterschool Alliance, 'America After 3 PM'  shows that 15.1 million children are unsupervised when the school day ends. The out-of-school time hours represent a challenge to families and community members who are looking for safe places and engaging activities for children and youth.” City Council recognized this challenge and, at the May Council meeting, passed legislation for the City to partner with an organization called Youth for Christ to start its own out-of- school-time program called THE LEADER WITHIN (grades 9-12).

Youth for Christ (YFC), led by Executive Director and Independence resident Jeff Thompson, is currently active in 30 public school districts in Northeast Ohio, including Strongsville, Mentor, Chardon, Brooklyn, Maple Heights and Garfield Heights. Although it is a Christian-based organization, YFC has successfully provided secular support to public school districts for over 60 years.

An additional component provided by YFC is called Campus Life, a program open to all students, both middle school (Grades 6-8) and high school (Grades 9-12), which will meet weekly and include Campus Life Club activities, such as open gym time, free food, crowd ice breaker  games, speakers, group discussions, and community service. It will also include Campus Life Big Events, such as Cavs and Indians games with player appearances, sports all-nighter tournaments, and summer camps, all at nominal cost to teens.

The after-school program will begin with the high school’s Extended Day Program, which will run from 2:35 to 4:00 p.m. and allow students to do homework in the school building while staff is available to assist. The City-sponsored portion, called The Leader Within (LW), developed by resident Frank Stretar, picks up after the Extended Day program and will run from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.. The purpose of LW is to develop students who will grow in their leadership understanding and capacity so that they will become more effective individuals intellectually, physically, socially and emotionally. The program combines formal exercise training with leadership lessons via activities of the new physical education  program using equipment that was recently donated to the high school. LW meets Ohio Department of Education standards and benchmarks, such as Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, Physical Education, Health, and Science.

At this time, program participants for the Leader Within will include at-risk students (recommended by the school or School Resource Officer) and/or Juvenile Diversion Program Participants (Independence residents recommended by the Court or City).

Independence was a leader in establishing an out-of-school-time program years ago when we created and implemented our After-School Program for children up to Grade 6. Last year, we took the step to expand that program to serve students in Grades 7 and 8. This year, we will take the next step to provide the support for not only the high school students, but for the entire community, as we strive to meet the goals suggested by the National League of Cities, including “improving public safety and health, supporting the City’s education system preparing the future workforce, and supporting working families — all of which improve a city’s economic vitality and overall quality of life.”