State promotes after-school fun

In an effort to combat high youth delinquency rates in the city, the state announced a $300,000 grant Friday for three New Haven public schools to fund after-school programs.

The State Department of Education grants — given to Clinton Avenue, John S. Martinez and Katherine Brennan Schools — will allow the schools to expand their after-school programs and offer children something productive to do at the end of the school day, Governor M. Jodi Rell said in a press release issued Friday. But some city aldermen said the city will have to do more for community youth than simply provide after-school activities.

Rell said the newly funded programs will improve attendance, literacy and general behavior.

“By providing young people with a place to go after school, we not only offer positive experiences and directions but we also keep more children off the street and assure working parents that their children are being cared for in a supervised environment,” she said.

Katherine Brennan School Principal Celeste Davis said after-school programs have been very popular among parents and students. Her school had suspended its after-school program last August while waiting for the state grant money to come, but she said she expects over 80 percent of its 320 students to register once the program restarts in two weeks. Davis said the grant will also allow her school to launch a before-school program for the children of parents who start work early.

The Katherine Brennan School’s after-school program — which starts after dismissal at 2:15 p.m. and ends at 5 p.m. — offers a variety of activities ranging from supplemental academic classes in English and mathematics to recreational activities such as tennis, soccer and golf.

Davis said after-school programs offer children at her school an entertaining and instructive way to spend their afternoons.

“I think with a lot of our students, there is not a great deal to do in the city, so when they leave school, it kind of ends there,” she said. “This gives them an opportunity of something that is fun.”

The city’s lack of youth activities has been an ongoing problem. In his seventh inaugural speech in January, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. announced a series of youth initiatives including the creation of six “Open Schools” in the city for after-school tutoring and recreation. But despite the new policies, youth delinquency has remained problematic.

While the Board of Aldermen welcomed the series of youth initiatives when it was announced, some aldermen think a much broader policy is still needed.

Last month, four aldermen co-submitted a Youth Protection Ordinance to the Board of Aldermen that seeks to modify current curfew statutes, which date back to the 1920s, to make them enforceable.

Ward 30 Alderwoman Michelle Edmonds-Sepulveda said she is pleased the city is able to expand its after-school offerings to children and teenagers, but that these policies should go hand-in-hand with the Youth Protection Ordinance.

Ward 23 Alderman Yusuf Shah said there is an urgent need to address youth delinquency, which he thinks is reflective of the community’s recent failure to pay close attention to youth. The Youth Protection Ordinance is a small part of the much broader initiative, he said.

“The Mayor’s youth initiative was based on summer youth employment and programs, which is an excellent step in the right direction, [but] the ordinance will bring to the table that we will need a holistic approach to youth in the city that happens year round and all day,” Shah said. “Most successful youth initiatives have included a curfew, but it is only a small part of it.”

Shah said the ordinance will next be discussed at a panel discussion later this month.

Comments