When it first applied for 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding in 1998, the Lillian Emery neighborhood of New Albany, Indiana—just across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky—faced some of the toughest economic conditions in the region. Lillian Emery had a child poverty rate four times that of the surrounding communities of New Albany and half the median family income. The over-25 unemployment rate was 50 percent.
Despite its striking economic challenges, the Floyd County community of New Albany stuck its vision for a multi-service center that would provide a variety of offerings, including youth programs, adult education, mental health services, nutrition programming and much more. A federal Community Development Block Grant had helped make that vision a reality, along with community donations and in-kind support. Then, in 1998, the center was awarded the only 21st Century Community Learning Center grant in the state. Although the center offered many types of services other than afterschool, the 21st CCLC program was at the heart of the center’s work, helping make it an important fixture of the community.
When 21st CCLC grant-making shifted to the states, three schools in New Albany, including Lillian Emery’s Children’s Academy of New Albany, received grants. All three schools served the lowest income students in New Albany, with free and reduced lunch rates at the schools ranging from 70 to 97 percent. The grant money funded a nine-week summer program. More recently, a 2007 grant from the 21st CCLC initiative funded an expansion – from a summer program to a summer and school-year program with an academic focus. Teachers provide tutoring that helps link afterschool activities to the regular school day, and the program offers meaningful enrichment opportunities for students as well.
Community support has grown along with program offerings. That hasn’t yet translated into additional funding, but local activism on behalf of afterschool is beginning to make its mark. A Floyd County Afterschool Alliance has recently formed to bring attention to the need for afterschool funding.
“I think our 21st Century CLC programs have helped transform the community to view afterschool programs not as simply nice, but essential,” says Vince Klein, Project Manager for Floyd County schools. “I also think that many key stakeholders have come to realize that these opportunities represent true quality-of-life issues for New Albany that must be nurtured and preserved. Without them, a critical expression of support for our youth and families would be missing.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: New Albany 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.