Our After-School Program, envisioned, created, and maintained by undergraduate college students ages 18-22, serves at-risk children ages 5-12 two hours a day Monday-Thursday throughout the school year. We provide this service free to the Bowling Green community, serving families and children as well as giving Bowling Green State University students a meaningful volunteer experience. The goals of our program are:
• To increase literacy, reading comprehension and fluency
• Provide community youth with positive role models
• Provide meaningful leadership opportunities to BGSU students
• Develop meaningful relationships between BGSU and the larger Bowling Green community
This past year, we served 20 children and had over 90 mentors participate in our program. At the beginning of the program, we have play time where the children (and mentors) can wind down from a long day spent sitting in a classroom. Once everybody has let loose some excess energy on the playground, we provide a quick snack that we enjoy as a group, after which we start our reading program. We’ve recently added a literacy training program, called “Reading A-Z,” that engages both the mentor and the child. Each person takes turns reading aloud to each other, with the mentor helping the child along whenever he or she needs it. The leaders of our program make sure that the mentors are using developmentally appropriate teaching skills, as most of our mentors are from the BGSU College of Education. Finally, we close the program with homework help, enabling the children to receive one on one tutoring in a variety of subjects. When all is said and done, our program not only achieves our goals, but also:
• Trains future educators in creative teaching and personal communication skills geared toward at-risk, low-income children
• Provides a safe environment for our children to explore and grow
• Gives parents piece of mind, knowing that their children are in the hands of caring young adults who they have come to trust and rely upon.
We truly want to make the world a better place, starting right here in our local community. Each year since our program began in 1995, we have continued to improve the quality of each aspect of the After School Program. Many people have been touched by our After-School Program; children, families, and volunteers alike- I know I have. For a year and a half, I volunteered with this program and helped lead it this past year, giving me invaluable leadership experience and a chance to work with some children who grew up in economically disadvantaged environments similar to my own. It has been a great learning and growing experience for me and the countless other volunteers who’s hearts are poured into this free service we offer to families who truly need it. With our program, everybody, children and mentors alike, puts in some serious time and effort, but come out with something truly special that they will remember for a lifetime.