BELLOWS FALLS >> Thanks to Meeting Waters YMCA's Y-ASPIRE program, hundreds of children in southeastern Vermont can continue to learn, grow and thrive even after the bell rings at the end of the school day.
At least as importantly, that also means that several hundred parents can work with the peace of mind that their child is in a safe and nurturing environment. When Sue (Fortier, the Y's Program Director) and I created Y-ASPIRE in 1998, we made sure that it would meet the needs of working parents. What we do at Y-ASPIRE is all about positive youth development. When we do Y-ASPIRE is all about supporting working parents.
Enrollment for the Y's After-School Program for Inspiration, Recreation and Education (Y-ASPIRE) is now open to the public for the 2016-17 school year. Current Y-ASPIRE parents were given a two-week period earlier in the month during which they could register their children.
Y-ASPIRE takes place at Brattleboro's Oak Grove, Green Street, and Academy schools; Dummerston School; Putney Central School, and Rockingham Central Elementary School. The Bellows Falls program also serves Saxtons River Elementary School and Westminster Center School with bussing provided by the school system. Guilford Center School provides bussing for its students to participate in the Y-ASPIRE program at Oak Grove School.
The Y-ASPIRE program runs after school for each of the 180 school days. It also runs for full days on all school vacations and most holidays, as well as for half-days on teacher in-service and other early release days. In all, the program operates for over 200 days during the school year.
Each day of a Y-ASPIRE program includes physical activity, nutritious snack, assisted study time and a cooperative group project. Activities are centered around monthly themes such as Celebrating Diversity; Our Community; and Kindness and Justice. Through various activities, students in Y-ASPIRE develop "life skills" such as cooperation, problem-solving, group decision-making and leadership. They also learn more about themselves, their community and their world. Service-learning projects benefit other community agencies. Monthly family events focus on strengthening healthy family habits.
Three other Meeting Waters YMCA programs complement the Y-ASPIRE program to provide year-round "out-of-school" supports for kids and their parents. The regional Y's Snow Days Program in Brattleboro provides full day care when schools are unexpectedly closed due to inclement weather. And, when the school year ends, Meeting Waters YMCA's Y Day Camp — with bussing from Brattleboro, Putney, Bellows Falls, Westminster and five other Vermont and New Hampshire communities — then kicks in to serve kids and parents in the summer months.
Financial assistance for all Meeting Waters YMCA "out-of-school" programs is available through the VT Childcare Financial Assistance program and Meeting Waters YMCA's Reach Out to Youth scholarship fund which is built by donations from local individuals, businesses and civic groups. As in all of the YMCA's programs, no one will be denied access to Y-ASPIRE for lack of ability to pay full program fees.
For more information and registration materials, visit www.meetingwatersymca.org, call Meeting Waters YMCA's main office at 246-1036 in the Brattleboro area or 463-4769 in the Bellows Falls area, or email them at email@example.com.
Steve Fortier is the organization's Executive Director.