Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Report: Long Branch lacks career-focused youth programs - Gazette

Data from Excel Beyond the Bell analyzes current programs to address needs and avoid redundancy

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008

Youth in the Long Branch neighborhood of Silver Spring are served by a large number of nonprofit organizations but don't have enough career-focused after-school programs, according to a report by a public-private partnership examining youth programs in the county.

The report, part of the Excel Beyond the Bell partnership of county and nonprofit organizations that launched in May, analyzes the current programs offered to middle and high school students in Long Branch, Wheaton and Germantown in an effort to address needs and reduce redundancy in youth programming.

The report included programs that met regularly after school on weekdays during the school year and were easy to access for students.

There are 216 programs offered in Long Branch by 21 organizations, 19 of which are nonprofits. The 19 nonprofits offer 48 programs in Long Branch, compared to just 13 programs offered by nine community providers in Wheaton, which has a similar number of high school and middle school students.

The remaining programs in Long Branch are offered by Montgomery County Public Schools (158 programs) and the county Recreation Department (11 programs).

"There is a lot more going on with the nonprofit community [in Long Branch] than in other communities in the county," said Carol Walsh, chief of policy, planning and programs with the Montgomery County Collaboration Council, an agency that coordinates public and private agencies for Excel Beyond the Bell.

Walsh presented the report Dec. 2 to the Long Branch Community Based Collaborative, which brings community organizations together to provide better after-school activities for youth and is part of County Executive Isiah Leggett's Positive Youth Development Initiative. The report was released in September.

In Long Branch, Wheaton and Germantown, programs focusing on careers and work force preparation were rare. None were available for middle-school students in Long Branch and just 2 percent of the 117 high school programs focus on careers.

Thirty percent of high school programs focus on life skills and leadership, significantly higher than other areas in the county, and 25 percent are based around athletics, a considerably lower number.

The data on Long Branch provide a tool for public and private youth organizations to identify areas that might require funding, said Gabriel Albornoz, director of the county Department of Recreation.

"Times are getting tough fiscally, so decision-makers are going to want to know what's out there," he said. "This helps us figure out what's out there."

The collaboration council hopes to provide a similar report by June on after-school needs and participation as expressed by parents and youth in Long Branch, Germantown and Wheaton.

"There may be something really different for the kids in Long Branch than the kids in Germantown," said Cheryl Jenkins, director of data and research for the collaboration council. "We'd rather see how we can match this report up to what people are saying they want."

A large number of high school programs in Long Branch did not require academic eligibility for participation. The report found only 37 percent of high school programs require the minimum 2.0 grade-point average required for academic eligibility by the county Board of Education. In Wheaton, 78 percent of high school programs require academic eligibility.

Walsh credited those statistics to the high proportion of programs in Long Branch provided by nonprofits, which might not have academic reports readily available.

While 60 percent of programs for Long Branch-area high school students span the duration of a school year, the community suffers from a high percentage of programs that do not meet regularly. About 43 percent of programs for Long Branch that target middle and high school students meet just once a week. However, in Wheaton, 6.4 percent of high school programs meet once per week and 93.6 percent meet at least three days per week.

"The programs don't run very long or very often," Walsh said. "And we know the more they run, the better it is for kids."

No comments: