After-school programs have gained importance over the past decade thanks to increasing knowledge that such programs do indeed help make a child well-rounded right from school. From skill-building and help with homework to sports, recreation to performing arts, crafts, computers and technology, after-school programs help enrich a child's social skills as well as strengthen character. There is growing demand for quality after-school programs all over the country and starting one in your neighborhood is easy.
Decide on the kind of after-school program to offer. It could be oriented toward academic skills or recreation, or teach skills that promote inter-community relations or awareness about drug abuse. Alternatively, it could be a combination of all activities you would like to host. Research the skills required of children in your locality and concentrate on that aspect.
Conduct a meeting. The first meeting revolves around the participation of key members of the community as well as any other members interested in participating. The aim of the meeting must be to gather ideas to run the program differently and efficiently. Allow every person to voice his suggestions.
Find a location for your operation. Contact local schools and businesses and garner support from your community for this task. People in the community may agree to lease out locations for the purpose. The location should be child-friendly and easily accessible.
Obtain local permits required. Acquire the building and planning permit from the building and planning department in the city if there is to be remodeling on the facility; fire alarm permits must be acquired from the fire and police department to ensure that all safety needs are met.
Procure volunteers and support from the community. This involves garnering support from your community in terms of volunteers who can help out with the program. Make visits to PTA, YMCA, different labor and arts organizations, community centers and other such places to request people interested to contribute time and assistance in teaching kids. If you are appointing expert teachers, ensure they have the required qualifications to impart knowledge to kids.
Apply for an employer tax identification number (EIN). This can be done by applying online at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website or by applying to the Department of Treasury for the Form SS-4. These are a prerequisite to attaining any sort of grant for after-school programs in New Jersey.
Procure funds. This can be accomplished by contacting local business heads and community centers to ask for donations of money. You could also run fundraisers and awareness programs on the benefits of holding an after-school program. Post licensing, the state of New Jersey also provides funding for the after school program. These can be obtained upon application to the state for request of funding. Funds are also available at the federal level upon request of application.
Plan and schedule activities. After deciding what kind of program is to be run, it is important to plan and schedule fun activities that are also a learning experience at convenient times throughout the week. Once the schedule has been made, stick to it.
Plan the incorporation of food into the program. Because many children do not obtain proper food at home, it is important to give good quality, filling food during the course of the program. Federal and state grants can be obtained for covering food expenses upon writing a grant proposal to the different federal and state agencies.
Procure a Certificate of Life/Safety licensing. This can be obtained by applying to the Department of Children and Families in the State of New Jersey. The department will send authorities to ensure that the center complies with all prerequisites for hosting an after-school program before providing the certificate. This includes checks on the safety of the location, indoor space requirements, qualification and number of teaching staff, provision of toilets, schedule and types of activities. The list of prerequisites can be obtained from the website of the Department of Children and Families.
It is important to garner and maintain community support at every step of the program. This helps the program last over many years.
Be creative in planning out kids' activities and ensure that they help kids learn at the same time.
Hailing out of Pittsburgh, Pa., David Stewart has been writing articles since 2004, specializing in consumer-oriented pieces. He holds an associate degree in specialized technology from the Pittsburgh Technical Institute.