BELLOWS FALLS -- For the 17th year, Meeting Waters YMCA's after-school program, Y-ASPIRE, will provide important supports for hundreds of area youth, their working parents, the businesses that employ these parents, and the seven communities served by the program.

"When Steve (Fortier, executive director of Meeting Waters) and I created Y-ASPIRE 16 years ago, we applied all of our knowledge and experience in positive youth development, after-school programming and family strengthening," said Susan Fortier, Meeting Waters YMCA's program director. "As parents of two young children at the time, we also built in considerations of parents' needs -- like all-day programming when schools are closed for in-service days, vacations and even most holidays. By doing all of that, we are supporting more than 200 youth each year, the many hundreds of working parents and caregivers of these young people, the business that employee the parents, and the communities served by our programs because we are developing important life skills during ‘the danger zone' each and every day."

According to Fortier, research shows that "the danger zone" from 3 to 6 p.m. is the time when children not enrolled in enriching after-school programs are likely to be physically inactive, not engaged in learning, and introduced to unhealthy behaviors.

"With our focus on the Developmental Assets approach to youth development -- which research shows helps young people reduce risk behaviors while also building thriving behaviors -- we are much more than a ‘safe haven,'" she said.


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"Yes, we are keeping kids safe. But, while we have these 200 or so young people in our care, we are developing building blocks that help them develop life skills and life habits that will serve them well into middle school, high school and into adulthood."

Next week, a new Y-ASPIRE site will open on the first day of school at Putney Central School. The program also takes place at Brattleboro's Oak Grove, Green Street, and Academy schools; Dummerston School; Rockingham Central School (which also serves Saxtons River Elementary School and Bellows Falls Middle School); and Walpole Primary School (which serves North Walpole and Walpole Elementary schools, as well).

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 Different But the Same; 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. Periodic service learning projects benefit other community agencies. Monthly family events focus on strengthening healthy family habits.

For more information and registration materials, visit www.meetingwatersymca.org, call Meeting Waters YMCA's main office at 802-463-4769, or email info@meetingwatersymca.org.