AFTER-SCHOOL ACTIVITIES FOR CITY YOUTH
1. Briefly describe the structure of the program.
The city of Gaithersburg Police Department, in conjunction with the city’s recreation department, conducts daily after-school activities for city youth. This neighborhood-based program is conducted at several elementary schools in the city and focuses primarily on early intervention and prevention for the city’s "at-risk" youth. The use of the elementary schools as a base of operations for each program has been successful in that it lends a sense of comfort and safety to program participants while fostering a sense of community for everyone in the neighborhood serviced by each school.
2. When was the program created and why?
In the early 1990's, several rental properties in the North Summit Avenue corridor of Gaithersburg were used as open-air drug markets. When several Gaithersburg officers began to patrol the area full-time on bicycles, they were quickly accepted and appreciated by the children (and most of their parents) living in the area. Due to a genuine concern to improve the quality of life for these children and prevent their involvement in the criminal element present in the neighborhood, officers organized structured activities for the youth weekly while continuing to aggressively combat the criminal element. The approach, termed "Fantastic Fridays" was a success as their efforts provided a positive role model for the youth and created an obvious atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.
The program developed to include an occasional field trip to city facilities to include activities such as swimming and miniature golf. The positive response to these activities by the youth, their parents, officers and city officials resulted in a further expansion of the program. The only negative comment regarding Fantastic Fridays is that a similar program was needed on the west side of the city.
In early 1996 the program was expanded to include the communities of East and West Brighton Village. In less than one year, an average of 67 children regularly attended the program known as "Winning Wednesdays". As a result of the overwhelmingly positive response from the community, city officials pushed to have the program implemented after every school day, in five different neighborhoods.
In September of 1997 "Magnificent Mondays", "Terrific Tuesdays" and "Thrilling Thursdays" were in operation. Each patrol shift has adopted a different day to participate in the program. Every day that school is in session, officers from the Gaithersburg Police Department team up with a full time program manager, Gardner Torrence, and other Parks and Recreation staff to direct structured activities, to include athletic events, arts and crafts, bicycle rodeos and field trips to a variety of locations.
The Gaithersburg Police Department is extremely committed to "CHARACTER COUNTS!" This program was a result of a summit to discuss declining national standards of moral and ethical behavior and it identifies six elements that are believed to be a part of every healthy society. These elements, also referred to as "The Six Pillars of Character" are Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship. When officers have the opportunity to speak at the after-school programs on any topic, one of the Six Pillars in included in the presentation.
The men and women of the Gaithersburg Police Department are very proud of this program and are committed to remaining responsive to the needs of the youth and continuing to build on the mutual respect between the youth and the officers.
3. How do you measure the program’s effectiveness?
The program’s effectiveness is measured based on attendance, return attendance, comments of participants and parents throughout the year, interviews with each school principal, and a written survey of both participants and parents. The written survey is comprehensive, providing measures and the opportunity for respondents to suggest ways to improve the program.
4. How is the program financed?
Early on the officers borrowed equipment from the city’s Recreation Department and provided snacks and refreshments from their personal funds. As the benefits were quickly obvious, the apartment complex owners, management companies, private businesses and parents provided support. Since 1994 the program has been supported by city tax dollars and some grant funds.
Many businesses support the program through donations, fund raising, or offering good/services at a reduced rate. Companies that support the program include Dominos Pizza, K-Mart, Courtyard by Marriott, McDonald’s, U.S. Martial Arts Academy, Faye’s Family Restaurant, and Old Country Buffet.
5. How is the community involved in the program, if at all? How has the community responded to the program?
The community response was immediate and positive. Early on, parents would regularly assist with the activities. Since formally partnering with Recreation staff the activities are run by one program manager and his assistants. The Police Department has also partnered with Gaithersburg High School to have student volunteers assist with the program. These students receive student service learning credit while working with and providing a role model for youth from their neighborhood.
6. Contact person:
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.