by Mark Price, originally published in the Charlotte Observer on 5/7/12
Charlotte third-grader D.J. Coleman dreams of being a professional wrestler named “Crazy,” because wrestlers get to hit people with chairs. It’s a perfect career choice for a 9-year-old who claims to be afraid of nothing … with one small exception. “Math,” he said, despondently. “Math is hard, and I’m scared of not passing end-of-grade tests. I’ll be held back in school.”
D.J. hopes to avoid that predicament by attending tutoring sessions at the Boys & Girls Club on Marsh Road, one of the better-known among 500 programs in Mecklenburg County set up to help kids before school, after school and during the summer. Experts believe the best of these out-of-school programs improve grades and school attendance, which explains why an estimated 3,800 youth in the county are on waiting lists.
More of those kids are going to get the help, thanks to a recent move by the Council for Children’s Rights to absorb Partners in Out of School Time, the small nonprofit that has led the push for after-school programs locally. In doing so, the bigger, better-funded council took on POST’s mission of improving out-of-school programs, including making sure more disadvantaged kids get access to them.
Brett Loftis of the Council for Children’s Rights noted stark disparities between what kids from well-off families do when they’re out of school, versus low-income kids. “Some kids do all sorts of wonderful things, like theater, music and art, while kids without means may live two miles from downtown and never go downtown,” said Loftis. “This is not just about tutoring. It’s about real-world experience that makes them ready for college and work. We have to make people realize the importance of that two-thirds of the day when kids aren’t in school.”
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