CITY OF NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, TX
The Edge - Teen After School Program
Middle school students ages 11-14 staying after school not because they have to - but because they want to. The alternatives: Going home alone, hanging out on campus alone, joining a gang, experimenting with drugs or sex or engaging in other potentially destructive activities. Over 150 students at three middle schools in North Richland Hills, Texas choose the first option daily. In 1994, North Richland Hills, like many other cities around the country, began experiencing the side effects of escalating youth violence. This growing crisis was no longer limited to inner cities, but indiscriminately began to spread to suburbia without regard to income, neighborhood or race. The City of North Richland Hills wanted to be a part of the solution by developing prevention programs that would give teens a choice on how they spend their free time. How it Started The Birdville Independent School District, Mayor and Council approved the Parks and Recreation Department's development of a pilot 'after school' program in 1994.
The first tool used in developing the pilot was an interest and needs survey of 6th-8th graders. Four hundred and fifty three students responded to the survey. Perhaps the most significant and alarming finding was that 69% of the students were unsupervised after school until a parent arrived home from work. Secondly, 90% of the teens indicated that they wanted something to do after school. This information along with other information from the survey clearly indicated that the City's Parks and Recreation Department had an opportunity to play an enormous role in prevention programs for at- risk students.
Program Design & Creative Content
The program today has evolved into one that is diverse with several components to appeal to the varying interests of the students, "the edge" program is offered Monday - Friday from 3:15 - 5:30 p.m., and includes Theater Arts, Dance, Video Production, Visual Arts, Sports, Chat Groups, Science Club, Math Club, Garden Club, Trips, Chess Club and other programs.
Approach Toward Engaging Youth Participants
Probably the most important component in engaging the students is the careful and thoughtful selection of staff and volunteers. It is imperative that staff and instructors be 'youth oriented' and support the mission and values of the program oriented and support the mission and values of the program.
Students assist in program development. A Teen Advisory Board meets regularly to discuss new programs and fund-raising ideas. Specialized instructors are hired to teach art programs. The other important aspect of the program is the voluntary involvement of each school site. Teachers volunteer to assist, which enhances the relationship between student and teacher in the academic setting.
An incentive system provides points for participation in the education, arts and enrichment components. At the end of each six weeks, those students with the most points are awarded with local trips. The incentive program takes into consideration behavior, attendance and academic performance. Prevention strategies include educational components and motivational guest speakers that provide information for deterring negative activities. Needs assessments and surveys are conducted regularly to stay informed of critical issues occurring within the youth population. Child development components include anger management, conflict resolution, peer mediation, time management, planning, and responsibility. These components are applied to various programs and activities. Theater arts, music and the visual arts play a critical role in identifying cognitive and emotional responses of the students. The arts serve as a catharsis for self-expression and communication.
Evidence of Positive Impact
Each of the school sites have documented a significant decrease in after school fights, truancy and other discipline problems. Conversely, attendance records have improved. At-risk students attend school more frequently because they now have a sense of belonging. Prior to the program, they may not have 'fit in'. They didn't belong to any school clubs, and they weren't on the athletic teams. Now, instead of feeling disconnected and alone, they have place where they are accepted with opportunities for inner growth and development.
Role of Mayor & City Government
The Mayor and City Council supported the program from the very beginning. Funding was allocated for the first pilot school and has subsequently been allocated for two additional middle schools. Since 1994, the Mayor and council have committed nearly $500,000 to the program.
Community Wide Support
The community has seen the benefits and supports the program. As stated earlier, many organizations and businesses are involved. Parents are relieved that their children are safe until they get home from work. Teachers are appreciative of the opportunity to interact with the students in a fun, non-threatening environment. The community is pleased because crime rates are decreasing. Businesses appreciate the opportunity to give something back to the community while being associated with a successful and positive program.
Financing The City of North Richland Hills funds the program through the General Fund, Parks and Recreation ½ cent sales tax, and other fund raising campaigns. Students also develop creative programs for funding approximately 10-20% of the program's cost.
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
Telephone (202) 293-7330, FAX (202) 293-2352