The Central Illinois Boys & Girls Club is bringing back after school programs to Jacksonville School District 117.
Tiffany Mathis, a Jacksonville native, and the current Executive Director of the club, says that the primary focus will be getting Jacksonville students after school role models and teachers from the Jacksonville community: “What we are particularly looking at is what’s called 21st Century Community Learning Center funding, and what that will provide us is the opportunity to bring after-school programs back to the Jacksonville community. We’ve targeted Jacksonville Middle School, Lincoln Elementary, Washington Elementary, and South [Jacksonville Elementary]. What we want to do would be to follow the model of how we run programming in Springfield, because we’ve utilized 21st Century Learning funding for years. We would be housed inside the schools. The kids would get out of school, and they would come down and meet [in a classroom], sign in, have snacks. We run an intentional hour of homework help called ‘Power Hour.’ We also employ teachers. Current teachers in the district are welcome to apply once we get into the schools. Our intention also is to really make sure that we have Jacksonville folks working with Jacksonville folks.”
Mathis says they align all after-school tutoring and homework with the school’s curriculum to be an extra layer of support to students. She also says it provides additional support to family members who work beyond the school day hours.
Mathis says the program is completely open to any Jacksonville School District 117 student. Cost is a one time fee of $40 for the entire year. Mathis says that if they are allowed to get the funding and grants that they are seeking for the Jacksonville sites, they may be able to serve a dinner meal to students in the program in collaboration with the Central Illinois Food Bank.
Mathis says they hope to be allowed to work with the school district and students whether the district goes to a full remote learning plan or not: “If we should go to a remote situation or we go back a phase or two and we end up being in a situation like we were in March where it was only remote learning allowed, our hope would be to work with the school district in Jacksonville as well as the school district in Springfield to find ways to continue to occupy the school buildings and provide full-day program services and opportunities for students who have parents who are working, who are too young to be at home by themselves, and help them work through that remote learning.”
Mathis says she understands concerns on both sides of the COVID issue, but she says that their summer programming has been effective in showing that they can be successful and safe: “The truth of the matter is, we are in the kid business at Boys & Girls Club. We are support these children in our communities, including the Jacksonville community if we get this funding because we know that every parent does not have the opportunity or the privilege to be able to have someone stay home with their 7 or 8-year old to watch them. Parents are very considered about ‘What do we do with our kids because my employer is not going to let me off work so that my kid can go to school remotely.’ It’s a very big concern for a lot of people. It’s been nice of getting back into the swing of things with our summer program because we all were able to relax a little bit. Our kids are keeping their masks on. We are sanitizing like crazy, and we are doing our best because we can’t strive for perfection in a time like this. We can only do our best, and that’s what we aim to do.”
Mathis says that she hopes that the program receives its necessary funding so she can help the organization give back to the community that she grew up in. She says that Jacksonville helped foster her own growth when she was a student in the district, and she wants to see the community to continue to succeed and produce more successful young people.