The Lagrange Communities Youth Centers has run after school programs since it began in 2006. That was and continues to be a significant focus for the organization. Through grants from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute and the Council for a Drug Free LaGrange County the LCYC has conducted an after school program aimed at middle school age children since its inception. The program is in its seventh year and meets from September through March at both Lakeland Middle School and Westview Elementary for grades 5-7. When the LCYC decided to expand its programs they decided to aim for a younger population.
Michelle Myers, LCYC Executive Director explains, “based on the success of our summer camps for 2nd through 4th graders we believed this might be a population looking for activities beyond the classroom. Last spring the LCYC conducted a pilot program at Topeka Elementary to see if there was a need or interest for an after school program. That question was answered, as 86 students participated. According to Myers, “We were planning on a maximum of forty, so we really had to do some scrambling to add extra staff and volunteers. But it definitely showed us there is an interest at that level.” Based on the success of the pilot program the LCYC is seeking funding and staff to conduct a long term after school program in Topeka.
This fall the LCYC headed to the other side of the county to see if they also had interest in an after school program. Prairie Heights Elementary had an after school program in the past, but that program was not going to be offered this school year. So the LCYC started another pilot program for grades one through four to assess the needs and interest of those students.” Being a more rural area we weren’t sure if students would be able to participate due to transportation issues” said Myers. However, the program has grown almost every week, with nearly twenty students participating. The LaGrange County Community Foundation recently granted the LCYC funds to assist with the cost of the pilot program.
The Prairie Heights program includes two site directors, Teresa Knight and Sandy Roemke. While homework time is a part of the curriculum the focus of the program is to get kids off the couch and out from in front of a screen. The kids do arts and crafts, play games and interact without the use of technology. The program will conclude on November twenty-first with a visit from LaGrange County K9 unit Arron Knisley and Kayla, who will perform a K9 demonstration. Like all programs offer by the LCYC, the after school programs are free to all participants. The LCYC hopes to continue increasing its programming to best serve the youth of LaGrange County.