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Dedicated volunteers make YMCA after-school programs thrive

Posted November 26, 2019 7:38 a.m. EST
Updated November 26, 2019 7:40 a.m. EST

— Experts say children who return to an empty home after school are at a higher risk for poor grades and other problems.

That's where "Y-Learning," a 14-year-old YMCA program designed to entertain and teach students after school, comes in.

According to counselor Mariela Dunston-Torres, the two-hour after-school program involves help from young volunteer counselors, student teachers from North Carolina State University and certified teachers.

"It's really like an extended school day," said Dunston-Torres. "We're adding in the social, emotional learning aspect.

Dedicated volunteers make YMCA after-school programs thrive

The counselors say after-school hours are a critical time for the children who would otherwise be home alone.

"They don't have anybody to help them with homework," said Rebecca Townsley, a teacher at Heritage Elementary School in Wake Forest. "Their parents are working."

Townsley, who has taught second grade for 16 years, now serves with Y-Learning. Her day is long, but she loves it.

"It's a really important program for me," she said. "It's worth every minute of it."

The Y-Learning program now spans six counties, serving 42 elementary schools and 6 middle schools.

In addition to homework help, the program includes healthy snacks, games and time outdoors. "That game time kind of gets them unwound so they can get into their curriculum," said counselor Brittany Hall.

The counselors say each game facilitates learning with teambuilding skills and focuses on showing kindness toward others.

The YMCA also offers summer camps that involve an hour of learning per day. Anyone can get involved by serving as a volunteer or by financially supporting YMCA programs. Learn more on the website.

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