YMCA after-school programs along with many others create a supportive, safe and engaging environment for young people during out of school time hours. A high quality before-school and after-school program is based on engaged staff and organizational practices that are key to ensure holistic youth development needs are met-creating spaces where youth can excel.

Providing a variety of supportive environments is a must when it comes to youth. Our community and nation strongly voiced its concern for offering youth based programming. Mentoring youth is a strong need within our communities as unfortunately family dynamics, supportive homes, interactive and intentional parenting has steadily declined over the years. The YMCA places emphasis on building the foundation for healthy eating habits and regular physical activity while also encouraging kids to explore other aspects of learning through social interaction, crafts, STEM projects and more.

Due to the increased academic demands and testing benchmarks needed within the school systems, before-school and after-school programming allow kids to:

■ Experience learning through a variety of activities

■ Participate in a greater number of different activities more often

Other benefits for participating in Before-school and After-school programming are:

■ Sets staff and youth up for future successes by instilling healthy habits early.

■ Instills confidence and allows personalities to flourish in a safe and nurturing/caring environment.

■ Staff mentor and lead by example all while using the YMCA core values as a building block.

■ Daily structure provides consistency and dependability.

■ Encouraging environment for children to express themselves through play, crafts and interaction with peers.

■ Enthusiastic and devoted staff get to know the kids and parents on an individual level.

■ Caring environment that fosters a growth mindset.

■ Deliver the evidenced-based Catch Curriculum.

■ Exposing kids to strong partnerships and teamwork.

A before school and/or after-school program can have many health benefits for children. Aside from physical activity, there are other strengths and values youths can gain from these programs.

Studies show that getting youths involved with before and/or after school programs can decrease drug usage, prevent criminal behavior, increase moral values, and strengthen self-confidence. Building our children’s character and making sure they thrive in the future are important goals to achieve.

Locally our community YMCA staffs six after-school programs in the following locations: Garfield/Trinity Lutheran, Merryman, Park/United Methodist Church, Peshtigo, Central and Marinette Middle School. We also provide one before-school program in partnership with Marinette School District at Marinette Middle School.

We are proud to be just one of many local non-profit organizations that provide quality before- and after-school programming that supports our community, families and youth.

Michell Hampton is the Greater Marinette Menominee YMCA Corporate/Community Wellness Director; and Alex Kari is the youth development program coordinator.