Funded through $400,000 in public money as well as private dollars raised by the mayor, Nashville is one step closer toward a network of after-school programs for middle school students.
The Nashville After School Alliance (NASA), a formal partnership between the Mayor’s Office and Metro Schools, has been formed to help facilitate a coordinated system of after-school programs for middle school students across the county, the Mayor’s Office announced Wednesday.
Mayor Karl Dean is chair of the alliance, and Director of Schools Jesse Register is vice chair.
“We have a real lack of after-school programming in Nashville,” Dean said Wednesday. “We need to do better with after-school programming, and middle school is a key age. The key thing, from my perspective, is laying the groundwork.”
About 10 percent of Nashville’s 21,000 middle school students currently participate in formal after-school activities, according to Dean. A pilot program supported by private donations to Dean’s Education First fund started up earlier this school year, providing programming for small groups of kids at Cameron and Wright middle schools. Mayor’s Office staff member Candy Markman has led development of the pilot program.
Cameron Principal Beverly Bell said the pilot program, which has helped about 20 students think about career options for after high school, has filled a void. More than 90 percent of Cameron students are considered economically disadvantaged, and there aren’t many community role models to help kids plan for good jobs, Bell said. Cameron kids this year have thought about their life goals, then traced back to figure out the income level and career types they need to make those goals happen, she said.
“They realized that maybe flipping burgers wasn’t it,” Bell said. “They may not get this in classrooms. We talk about civic responsibility and careers, but this program is designed just for that…. These developmental years – you have to catch them now. You have to catch them early.”
In its first year, NASA will focus on serving about 250 students in East Nashville’s Stratford and Maplewood clusters, according to the Mayor’s Office. Programs developed through the effort are intended to incorporate existing resources, including transportation, faculty and staff.
While $400,000 in Metro funds have been proposed for the project, Dean said he hopes to supplement that money with private money raised through his Education First fund. It will take several years to fully develop a programming network for middle school students, and even after that, Dean would like to see programs coordinated for elementary and high school kids.
“This is a large goal for our city,” Dean said. “We’re doing everything we can to raise money, and we’re looking for additional funds.”