By Griffin Rankin
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte youngsters in a growing number of inner-city neighborhoods have a safe place to go outside of school, thanks to a three-year-old initiative funded by the Foundation for the Carolinas.
The Building Youth initiative has contributed $1.9 million to seven area nonprofits, helping their out-of-school programs hire and keep more teachers and offer activities ranging from dance lessons to organized sports teams for children in kindergarten through high school.
The initiative reflects efforts throughout the U.S. to provide children with structured activities their home life cannot provide, says Libby Cable, a program officer at the foundation.
The foundation is preparing to review a new round of applications for grants, which can cover three years and total $150,000 for the initial year.
The initiative made its first grant in 1999 to create Partners in Out-of-School Time, or POST, a nonprofit group that aims to boost local out-of-school programs and help raise awareness about the need for organized activity outside of school time, says Claire Tate, POST’s director.
The foundation aims to fund programs located in regions and meeting standards set by POST, says Tate, who helped launch the foundation’s youth initiative while working there.
Seigle Avenue Partners, which has received nearly $325,000 over three years from the foundation, developed a program to improve life in the low-income community of Belmont by expanding an existing program at Seigle Avenue Presbyterian Church to include students in elementary and middle school.
Seigle provides youngsters with educational and enrichment programs during out-of-school time, including an eight-week summer program. Activities include spiritual devotions, help with homework and basic study skills, and field trips to the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte.
Seigle also works to involve adults in the lives of their children.
“We’re changing years of perception and patterns,” says Mary Nell McPherson, executive director of Seigle Avenue Partners.
To help get parents involved, Seigle asks that provide “tuition payment” by picking up their children every day and attending monthly meetings.
The foundation will fund up to three programs over the next year. The deadline for applications is March 1. Contact Liz Tsonton at 704-973-4541 or visit the foundation’s Web site.