Op-Ed: YouthNet Flourishes in Community
After-school program continues to grow for middle school students in Maplewood and South Orange.
Here in Maplewood and South Orange there’s a thriving, exciting after-school network advancing the social and intellectual development of our youth. YouthNet, now entering its fifth year, offers an after-school learning opportunity at South Orange Middle School and Maplewood Middle School, staffed entirely by district teachers.
At YouthNet’s core are more than 30 after school enrichment activities offered free of charge, along with a fee-based developmental program for focus on homework help and tutoring. Far from being just custodial, YouthNet has measured its success by advancing the learning and life training skill sets of our students with its programs, helping them broaden their participation in both social and work settings.
YouthNet has been championed by scores of district parents, who have watched their kids develop stronger allegiance to their schools, new friends and new interests during this vital time of exploration and “finding yourself.”
And the kids don’t just follow, they lead: YouthNet’s special Youth Advisory Board (made up of Middle and High School students) continues to work together to speak out for teens, and work with other community members about teen issues. Our kids deserve the chance to make lasting intellectual and social connections independently – and YouthNet provides a fruitful environment to develop the thinking needed to achieve individual and community goals.
As the 2012 school year winds down, YouthNet will continue its resolve to help students develop the understanding of shared practices and resources through their own effort. By actively engaging our youth in our community after school and within the community, YouthNet offers benefits of additional growth and learning that have no limits.
Drew Dix is President of Soundphrase LLC, a Maplewood NJ based consultant group. YouthNet is a client of his business.