What are parents to do when the school day ends before they can leave their jobs? White Plains has a plan for that: The White Plains Youth Bureau (WPYB) and city's schools now work in tandem to keep children after school while parents are at work.
"White Plains saw the need to develop after-school programming and teen centers nearly 50 years ago,” said Frank Williams, Jr., executive director of the WPYB in an email exchange with Daily Voice Plus. The Youth Bureau, for the record, will begin its 50th anniversary celebration, expected to last yearlong, on Jan. 1, 2020.
"[The city] is a great example of how the investment in after-school programs is a strategy for reduction in problem behavior and a recipe in leadership development in our youth," noted Williams.
After-school care includes the district-run opportunities for elementary school children and the WPYB's two supervised enrichment programs for 700 first to eighth graders: the After School Connection and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) Academy. The agency also offers a Teen Lounge (see “City Tweens Don’t Have To Latchkey.”)
Williams lauded the city for protecting its youth and pointed out that Children and youth engaged in after school activities achieve better positive outcomes than children who are not.
They engage in "less risky behavior: drug use, alcohol use, incidence of teen pregnancy, school suspensions, crime, etc., and schools have better academic outcomes in terms of graduation rates," Williams said.
The Youth Bureau's after school programs provide homework assistance, art, music, recreation, fun activities and enrichment services. Benefits include children interacting with kids from different backgrounds, which helps them "build relationships from a point of diversity," said Williams.
In addition, the children develop relationships with teachers and after-school staff and gain a sense of belonging, confidence and improve their socialization and leadership skills.
Running robust programming has its challenges, however.
"For the most part, the challenge we are confronted with is turn over in staff,” said Williams. “Often staff leave for higher-paying jobs.”
Another issue? How to sustain fundraising. Williams credits the city's leaders for helping to overcome this.
"We have been successful with grants and fundraising because of the high-quality programs we offer. We have leaders who are champions—Mayor Roach, Common Council members, Superintendent of Schools, Youth Bureau staff. We also have great partnerships with our community partners."
In all, the White Plains Youth Bureau serves over 7,000 kids annually.