When they took office in 2017, Mayor Levar Stoney and his administration were asked several big questions: How can we make Richmond the best place in the Commonwealth for a child to grow up? How can we create communities where our kids are not just surviving, but thriving?
In front of a crowd gathered at Maymont, Stoney updated the community on his administration’s progress in supporting our City’s youth. One major initiative in development is the creation of a citywide system of afterschool programs, with the goal to provide every elementary and middle school student in Richmond Public Schools (RPS) with access to high-quality, full-service afterschool programming by 2020.
Research shows that these programs can reinforce school learning objectives and provide children with enrichment experiences they may not otherwise have, leading to positive effects on school performance, attendance and student well-being, along with a reduction in juvenile crime.
However, students who could benefit the most from these programs tend to have the least access. Upon surveying the afterschool landscape in 2017, Stoney’s team found that only about 15% of RPS elementary and middle school students had access to programs like these. Cost, lack of transportation, and lack of available programs can create barriers that keep students away from activities that could help close the learning gap.
Last year, RPS increased this access rate to 23%, as increased funding from the City, Altria, the Community Foundation, Robins Foundation and United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg expanded partnerships with several leading youth organizations. This service coalition coordinates free afterschool programs located at the schools or nearby with designated transportation. Partners include:
Because only a limited number of youth organizations can provide full-service programming (or programs offered at least three days per week), the City is examining how to bring all available resources together and coordinate services among other providers as well.
With this comprehensive approach, Stoney hopes to provide Richmond students with opportunities to explore their aspirations for the future.
“Where your passion and your skill intersect – to me, that’s richness in life.’” Stoney said. “I got that from some hard-working parents who poured their hopes, dreams and desires into me, the same way this administration will support each and every child who walks through those doors as well.”
Click here to learn more about afterschool time and the Community Foundation's Fund for Quality Afterschool Programs
Photos courtesy of NextUp RVA