South Carolina’s Richland One School District is one of the largest and most diverse in the state, serving 24,000 students at more than 40 schools. It includes the state capital, Columbia, as well as surrounding rural and suburban areas, but is largely urban. Such demographic and geographic differences could have divided the community and complicated afterschool programming in the district. Instead, Richland One has made diversity a cornerstone of its programming.
Richland One’s success is attributable to the commitment of policy makers at the federal, state and local levels. In 1997, Governor Carroll Campbell’s Education Accountability Act, which mandated that schools provide remedial afterschool services for students with below basic test scores, went into effect. That same year, the Superintendent of the Richland One District created a division for afterschool programming, while the mayor of Columbia joined the local police chief in expressing city-level support for afterschool programs. The federal government’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) initiative helped provide an avenue for critically needed funding. Before that “perfect storm” of factors combined, only a small percentage of Richland One students had access to afterschool.
Today, more than 40 percent of the district’s students are enrolled. In addition to five 21st CCLC programs, the district runs programs supported by foundations, the school district, the state and parent fees. A long list of community partners has been drawn into the effort. It includes the county sheriff’s department, the school district, the University of South Carolina, local businesses and the city government. In addition to providing academic support for students, programs address a range of issues, targeted to specific needs of particular communities. They include programs aimed at gang violence, teen pregnancy, juvenile delinquency, obesity prevention and more.
Stakeholders have identified afterschool as an antidote to these problems, and are coming together to advocate for increased investment in afterschool at all levels. Their support is making an important difference, according to Dr. Traci Young Cooper, Director, Office of Extended Day Programs Richland County School District One. “The City of Columbia and Richland School District One have been positively impacted by the presence of 21st Century Community Learning Center funding and programs,” she says. “Twenty-first CCLC has an irreplaceable impact on the lives of afterschool participants, parents and our community."
EDITOR’S NOTE: Richland One School District 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.