YMCA Provides a Fun Environment for Children Afterschool

The Montclair YMCA provides an aftercare program where students can finish homework, participate in enrichment activities and meet lifelong friends.

At the Montclair YMCA, every child is important.

Photo by Emma Gallof for The Montclair Dispatch.

The Montclair YMCA offers many different programs for the youth of Montclair, one of which is their aftercare program, located at all of the elementary and middle schools in Montclair. Different activities are conducted at each school that work to tailor to every child’s personality.

The aftercare program is designed to provide care for children after school and help working families, who are unable to pick them up when school first lets out. The YMCA’s aftercare program provides a fun place for kids while their parents are working.

The YMCA’s core values are: respect, responsibility, caring and honesty. These four values are associated with colors, and are constantly being implemented throughout the daily activities associated with the YMCA. At one of the YMCA camps, New Discoveries, children would earn beads when “caught” doing something that showed one of the four values. These beads would be the same color of the value associated with it, and at the end of every week, children would be able to make bracelets and necklaces with all of the beads they earned that week. This allowed them to talk about what actions they did to receive these beads with their families, and worked to implement these values into their daily lives.

Aftercare runs from the end of school until 6:30 p.m., and gives students various activities to chose from. At each school there is generally about seven to eight staff members, all who have been trained in working with school aged children. When children first arrive in aftercare, snack is offered to every student, with things like “table trivia,” where staff asks Brain Quest questions to the children while they wait for their snack. Occasionally, staff will make up their own questions based on the four values of the YMCA, or on facts about the counselors at that school.

Before beginning to play, students first have to finish their homework. Staff is available to help with homework and to answer any questions that students may have. Once homework is finished, students have the opportunity to participate in a range of enrichment activities, all based on different subjects to make sure that every child will have something they want to do.  

At Edgemont Elementary School, sports occurs mostly everyday, as well as art projects and weekly cooking activities. For the older kids at the school, things such as “girl talk” and “boy talk” are offered, where students can openly discuss things otherwise seen as “taboo” or “awkward.” For children who do not want to participate in an enrichment activity, table games are put out, such as board games, card games, coloring and Legos. Another enrichment offered is Healthy U, a program that teaches children about nutrition by labeling foods as “go foods, slow foods and whoa foods” which occurs once a week, along with outdoor play when weather permits.

Most importantly, the YMCA provides a fun and caring experience for everyone involved from the students to the staff. Many of the students who attend have made so many new friends with people from different grades, who they may not have met otherwise. For the staff, getting to know each and every child is something extremely special, and as someone who was in the aftercare program when I was in elementary school, I have met some of my best friends through the program and will never forget the staff at my school.

“The Y made me become closer with so many people, and made me a happier person,” said Samantha Angelo, a staff member of the aftercare program and the summer camp program. “It made me feel like a part of another family, which is really special.”

Parents interested in enrolling their children can stop by the Park Street YMCA, located at 25 Park Street, or you can check out their website montclairymca.org.

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