There are many after-school programs for inner city students who attend the Toledo Public School District. However, one unique program is in action at Reynolds Elementary where they help students stay busy, stay active and stay fed. The attitude and energy of the program can be a respite for the young attendees, many of whom come from neighborhoods in food deserts with poverty and crime.
Reynolds Elementary educates hundreds of students (Kindergarten-8th grade). The challenge, as for many schools in urban neighborhoods, is to keep their students socially and educationally engaged after school hours and in the summer. Just two miles away, the University Church took action and teamed up with the school to create the following programs: Reynolds After-School Program, Reynolds Summer Program, and Reynolds Mentorship Program
The four-hour, Monday – Thursday initiative is separated into two primary groups based on grade level: K-4 and 5-8 during the regular school year. It serves over thirty students with educational and recreational activities including mathematics, reading, gym, recess, and gardening. The gardening aspect has plenty benefits for the kids such as responsibility, collaboration, nutrition, creative skills, environmental comprehension, patience, and confidence. Students also have a thirty minute meal time, in the summer they receive a replenishing lunch and during the school year a filling dinner. A majority of the program’s participants live in subsidized housing, one is just on the other side of the school’s parking lot. Also, kids have constant access to the playground and garden.
When school is in session the 5-8 graders have the opportunity to gain an adult mentor that interacts with them on an individual weekly basis. Many of the mentors are medical students from the University of Toledo and the majority of the established mentor-mentee pairs last beyond the assigned school year due to the strong bond built between the two
The summer program is currently in session but is limited to serving K-4 grade students due to different funding opportunities available in the season. Nonetheless, this group gives the staff the opportunity to continue to work with their largest and youngest group, kindergartens. Andrew, one of the leading staff members said less than 10% of the kids who enroll into kindergarten at Reynolds Elementary are “kindergarten ready.” Meaning, it’s highly anticipated the majority of those children will struggle academically and socially, but the initiative offers extra love and attention to help provide stability for the children’s development.
Parental figures have the strongest impact concerning the development of children, but child care workers are just behind them due to the high level of interaction with them.
Therefore, if a child is raised in an unstable home having the opportunity for developmental stability from a secondary source is vital. Further, if a child is raised in a stable environment having secondary exposure only helps development even more.
Recently, the church’s initiative received a grant that will make them even more resourceful to the youth of their community. They can now afford to hire more staff meaning they can help more kids while incorporating new activities for them to enjoy and grow from.
In summary, the program provides children with a fun and safe environment that allows kids to be kids while nurturing their educational and social development.