LIGHTHOUSES IN THE COMMUNITY
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
The City of Bridgeport offers after-school and summer educational and recreational programs through subcontracts with various local not for profits for children in grades K-12. The program called "Lighthouses in the Community" is a collaborative effort between the City, Board of Education and local non-profits and takes place at 15 schools throughout the City during the school year and 12 school sites during the summer. Hours of operation range from 2pm-6pm Monday through Friday during the school year and 9am-4pm Monday through Friday during the summer. An average of 1,800 youth are served during the school year and an average of 2,800 during the summer. Snacks are served during the after school program and breakfast and lunch are served during the summer as part of the Stateís Summer Feeding Program. Programs are completely free to Bridgeport residents.
While attending the after school program, youth participate in a mandatory one hour homework help session before moving on into various activities such as arts and crafts, chess, board games, dance, exercise, karate, music, computer lab, read-a-long, movie madness, sports, open recreation, cultural art, cooking, math and science clubs, etc. Structure is not the focus of the summer session, instead, we like to create a cool and enjoyable atmosphere. Water play and trips to various theme parks are highlights of the six weeks. Reading and math continue to be offered as part of the dayís activities at most sites and every site prepares their youth for a closing ceremony where they can show off a host of talents. In addition, the City encourages many of the older youth (teenagers) to participate in the "Teen Program" since many teens dislike the thought of going back to a grade school for activities. The Lighthouse Program offers activities throughout the year on weekends, evenings, vacation times and days off at various times and days off at various local non-profit centers. Teens can participate in game nights, educational workshops, volunteer work, bowling, all day movie madness trips, picnics, etc. Teen activities gather anywhere from 50 to 600 youth per event.
2. When was the program created and why?
The Lighthouse Program began in January 1993 in an effort to provide youth with positive alternatives to crime, violence, drugs, pregnancy and therefore, prevent drop out statistics from increasing. At this time, the City was experiencing an alarming increase in the numbers of youth age 12 and under involved in serious crimes with the results being fatal for some of these youth. The Mayor, Superintendent, and several youth organizations around the City met in mid January to discuss these concerns and what could be done to help. Resources were scarce on all levels, but it was decided that programming was essential during the crucial after school hours. All partners around the table opened their doors and helped to fund the programs which began 2 weeks later.
3. How do you measure the programís effectiveness?
Several measures are taken which enable the City and the Board of Education to see how effective the programs are. On a regular basis, attendance rates are kept and lists of those students attending the program 80% of the time are generated. In this manner, professional evaluations will focus on this group. A December, 1995 external evaluation measured the programs effectiveness by looking at the following data:
As we discussed previously, preliminary funding was a collaborative effort between the City, the Board of Education and local non-profits. Funding from July 1, 1993 through June, 1994 was provided through the Board of Educationís ECS allotment. Thereafter, funding for the program remained as part of the City budget and stands at approximately $800,000 per year to service 11 our of the 15 schools. The balance of the schools are funded out of the Board of Education Priority Grant funding. The Board of Education covers all security and custodial costs of the program totaling approximately $150,000 to $200,000 per year. Non profit agencies operating the different sites offer in-kind services whenever possible. Any other funding received is for various projects under specific grant guidelines.
5. How is the community involved in the program? How has the community responded to the program?
The entire program is designed to encourage a positive school/community partnership. Every facet of the program was specifically developed to ensure the continuous input of the community. Citywide meetings about the program during its earlier years took place monthly to ensure its continued success. In addition, an advisory board representative of the community meets periodically and addresses policy issues. Day to day operations are handled through the Cityís Youth Services Department. Response overall has been favorable with many community businesses and organizations stepping forward to help whenever possible.
6. What are the major lessons learned from the program?
7. Contact person:
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.