Group focuses on kids while out of school

Claire Tate
Claire Tate

Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — This summer, more Charlotte kids in kindergarten through high school will have a chance to go to camp, thanks to a gift from an anonymous sponsor.

This fall, local middle-school students will be able to join an after-school program to learn about information technology.

And through an initiative of Crossroads Charlotte launched in February, local kids that go to after-school and summer programs now can take part in an outdoor curriculum that helps them learn about the natural world.

Playing a key role in all three efforts is Partners in Out-of-School Time, or POST, a nonprofit formed in 2001 that aims to give all school-age children in Mecklenburg
County access to “high-quality programs, activities and opportunities when school is closed,” says Claire Tate, the group’s president.

POST operates with an annual budget of $1.2 million and a staff of three people working full-time and three working part-time.

Funded with public and private dollars, the group directly serves 470 middle-school kids by funding and managing programs they attend.

And acting as an intermediary that serves advocate, coach, clearinghouse and catalyst, POST indirectly serves thousands of children in Mecklenburg County.

The idea for the organization grew out of a $35 million bequest in 1995 by Lucille Giles to Foundation for the Carolinas, its largest gift ever.

Because of the bequest, annual grants awarded by the foundation’s distribution committee, the citizen panel that Tate chaired at the time, grew to over $2 million from roughly $150,000.

As part of its effort to decide how to spend those funds, the panel identified the need to define standards to measure the quality of programs serving school-age kids, programs for which North Carolina did not require a license, Tate says.

Adopting a program the National Institute on Out-of-School Time was managing in Boston, Chicago and Seattle for the Wallace Foundation, POST was formed.

Tate, who was serving as board chair, says Michael Marsicano, president and CEO of Foundation for the Carolinas, persuaded her take the job of executive director.

In its intermediary role, Tate says, POST advocates for the city, county and individuals to support out-of-school programs; provides training and technical assistance to help out-of-school programs improve their quality; serves as a clearinghouse for information about out-of-school programs; and convenes people to talk about the topic.

While that intermediary role was its initial focus, the group concluded two years ago that local middle-school kids were not getting adequate attention from out-of-school programs.

So it launched “Middle School Matters,” a consortium of after-school programs for middle-school kids.

Now in its second year, the initiative is serving four sites, each of which runs from the end of the school day until 6 p.m. and provides 100 kids with a snack and a mix of curricula and activities that include homework assistance, art, sports, community service, college connections and other opportunities to acquire skills kids will need in the 21st century.

Generally, Tate says, attendance at school has improved for kids who have participated in the after-school program, and their principals report the kids’ attitude and attention toward school also have improved.

POST, which must raise $200,000 to launch the two-year program at each site, aims to expand it to all 35 middle schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, she says.

In partnership with NPower Charlotte Region, POST is developing the new information-technology curriculum that will be launched this fall and aims to help close the “digital divide” that leaves low-income kids with little access to computers with internet access at home.

And on March 7, POST partnered with YMCA of Greater Charlotte to sponsor a two-hour spin-a-thon benefit at three Y branches, with the two groups to split the proceeds.

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