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Athol YMCA To Bring After School Programs to Quabbin Students

Monday, January 28, 2013


Thanks to the hard work of two high school students, the Athol Area YMCA and the Quabbin Regional School District, two new exciting afterschool programs will be open to Quabbin's Middle and High School students and Ruggles Lane elementary students starting February 4th.

That is exactly what the research done by In 2011, two then high school seniors, Katherine Copeland and Tove Freeman, conducted an honors research project that identified a need for "things to do afterschool for teenagers" for Quabbin area youth. They discovered that involved and engaged youth are less likely to participate in risky behavior and more likely to become contributing citizens.

The two then convinced community leaders of the need, and thanks to the help of State Senator Stephen Brewer (D-Barre), state funding was appropriated to establish afterschool programming for Quabbin community youth.

"Because there will be emphasis on health, fitness, and nutrition, we hope students see and feel the value of making wise choices instead of ‘hanging around’ like the proverbial couch potato," says Chris Nosel, Academic Programs Coordinator for Quabbin Regional High School and the former honors research advisor for Katherine and Tove.

"We have not had such an organized structure. We have extensive co-curricular offerings, but nothing of a ‘drop-in’ type atmosphere where kids can relax and just be a kid in a supervised atmosphere."

The students who performed the study identified the need based on their personal experience and observation of what the Quabbin area offered compared to neighboring, larger urban communities.

"As identified by the students research, because of our rural location, there is very little for students to do after school," says Nosel.

The study consisted of a creating a community wide survey distributed to all ages, as well as the use of ADA substance abuse survey data and CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey data to support their hypothesis. They then concluded after careful research that the YMCA the widest range of possible programs at the most affordable prices.

Some of the activities the Y will be running include Leaders Club, dance-related exercises such as Zumba, yoga, cooking, free-lance art expression, Wii Kinect for a variety of activities, homework help, a community service project that the students will decide upon, and classroom teachers as academic tutors for academic remediation and support. Some students have asked for college prep help as well like the SAT, college essay writing and college research, all of which the Y has experience with and programs for.

"Leaders Clubs help develop youth ages 12 to 18 as leaders while fostering a culture of service. With adult advisors, teens have role models and mentors who can have a positive impact on their lives as they grow in their desire and ability to be a positive force in the community," says Nosel, speaking specfically of the Leaders Club. He goes on, "in the cooking classes, the students will research healthy recipes before making them. The Y has adopted the Healthy, Family Home program, which encourages physical activity and healthy food choices. All leading to a healthier lifestyle."

All the activities will encourage camaraderie among the students as well, giving them a sense of purpose and the tools by which they can make wise behavior choices and improve upon their academic performance.

“The programs are designed with the help of Quabbin’s middle and high school administrators and Quabbin high school students,” explained Ms. Jeanette Robichaud, the YMCA’s executive director. “We are fortunate to have a seasoned Y program director willing to guide the development and implementation of the programs too."

Nekr Jenkins of Barre will assume that role, working closely with students and Y staff to bring meaningful and engaging activities, programs, and events to the Quabbin Youth Initiative.

The programming will be separate for the middle school students who will participate on Tuesdays and Fridays from 2 – 5:30 p.m. and high schoolers will enjoy the Y area on Mondays and Thursdays. Transportation will be provided daily at 5 p.m., following the Quabbin ‘late bus’ stops. There is a minimal daily fee for participation but members may earn Y bucks for participating, doing homework, and meeting the goals of the program.

Registration forms are now available at the high school and middle school offices. Although designed as a drop-in center, only those who are registered my take part in Y programs.

The Ruggles Lane program, "Y Kids at Ruggles Lane," will be directed Melissa Eaton who will oversee enrichment programs that complement and enhance student’s academic days. The school will distribute pre-registration forms shortly.

Now college freshmen, it is a thrill for Tove and Katherine to see their initiative come to reality. Tove is studying at Brandeis University and Katherine at UMass Amherst. Both have aspirations as medical professionals. 


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