Creating afterschool opportunities for kids is often achieved through partnership, when agencies, community groups and funders pool talents and resources. It's hard work. But when the community infrastructure doesn’t even include a gas station, there aren't many partners to be had. The work is all that much harder.
But the afterschool program on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in Todd County, South Dakota persevered. And a grant from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative made a world of difference.
The afterschool program provides students on the Rosebud Reservation with an academically challenging place to go after school. The first 21st CCLC grant, awarded in 1998, served about 1,200 K-12 students in the town of Mission. A second grant, awarded six months later, supported programming for 800 more. Today 2,000 children are served by 21st CCLC programs each year in Todd County.
While activities differ from site to site, most sites align their afterschool programs with their school’s improvement plan, with heavy emphasis on reading and math. In addition, most programs offer arts, cultural and science activities science. Some include homework help, as well as transition activities for students entering new schools.
Though community partners are scarce, the sites take advantage of what is available, including a local university and a reading program, which, in cooperation with the National Honor Society, distributes books to students in the community. Still, the area lacks the money, resources, and partners often considered vital to sustaining a successful afterschool program. Even without a large social network or the support of a wealthy community, the 21st CCLC program has been a stable source of support for students of the Rosebud Reservation for ten years.
“Our before and after school programs are vital to our students’ success,” says Patricia Burnette, of the Todd County Schools Federal Programs office, “not only for academics but also safety and social times with their peers. It is one of the best community/parent friendly programs we offer to the families who send their students to our schools in Todd County.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: Todd County was one of the first communities to be awarded a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant to support its afterschool programs. The federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative has just marked 10 years of supporting community afterschool programs. Today, it remains the only federal funding source dedicated to afterschool programs.