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Report: Limited access to after-school programs for city youths

Only about one-third of students in Rochester have access to academic and enrichment programs out of school time, a new report commissioned by the Greater Rochester After-School Alliance found.

The study found that 5,932—or 31 percent—of city children in need have access to formal after-school programs held between 3 and 6 p.m., leaving 14,479 city youth ages 6 to 17 not involved in these programs.

The report was researched by the Children’s Agenda, a local nonprofit children’s advocacy organization. Researchers noted that out-of-school programs have been proven to increase student academic success and can reduce disparities between low-income students and their middle- to high-income counterparts.

“With nearly 70 percent of Rochester students not engaged in a structured, consistent experience during non-school hours, we are missing a big opportunity to boost their chances of reading at grade level, graduating from high school and achieving other milestones on a path toward success,” said Mairead Hartmann, program officer at the Rochester Area Community Foundation and co-chair of GRASA.

The survey included 60 out-of-school-time providers, including 13 programs offered for free because of grant or government funding. The out-of-school-time inventory found a gap between the 6,335 slots in these programs and the 5,932 participants.

It found that cost is often a barrier for families to participate.

“The average weekly charge is $166, which is too expensive for low-income families,” said Brigit Hurley, policy analyst at the Children’s Agenda and author of the report. She added that the financial assistance available and programs offered at low or no cost are not enough to cover the gap.

The report outlined a number of recommendations: more coordinated advocacy and increased funding for these programs; a coordinated system of information-sharing and student tracking among youth-serving systems and institutions; and an indicator to ROC the Future’s annual report card focused on the availability and expanded learning opportunities for city youth.

The report also recommended greater investment in compensation and professional development, the creation of a career track for youth workers in these programs, and access for all city children to high-quality summer learning to increase grade-level reading proficiency and school success.

(c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.

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