TORONTO- An innovative after school program is helping to keep vulnerable kids off the streets.
“We support students; we provide programming that enable and empower children to learn to be successful at school,” Catherine Parsonage, executive director and CEO of TFSS, said.
The program is designed for children in at-risk communities between the ages of 11 and 14.
“This program is impacting those tweens before they’re entering high school, they’re at the cusp where they are making a lot of choices; they’re making social choices, they’re making academic choices, and it’s encouraging them and it’s providing role models, and it’s building skills and most important it’s empowering them,” Parsonage said.
Beyond 3:30 is currently in 16 schools across Toronto. The program is completely free to ensure that all children are able to participate.
“North American research shows that the hours of between 3:30 and 6 p.m. is the prime time for this age group to get into trouble. Petty crimes, anti social behaviours, so if we can keep them occupied, productive, having fun, physically fit, and healthy, we go a long way to setting them up for a very successful future,” Parsonage said.
Once the school day ends the children get 20 minutes of physical activity either in the gymnasium or outside, then they spend 40 minutes on homework with the help of teacher graduates. After homework some of them go to the junior chef program where they learn how to cook healthy meals and the others go back to the gymnasium for more physical activity. Afterwards they all gather together to eat a meal prepared by the junior chefs and partake in other activities.
“A lot of times for our families, they need a place for their kids to be after school cause parents can’t be here at 3:30 to pick up their children, so they look for something that’s just going to occupy their time but when you take a look at a program like this it’s not just occupying their time they’re learning,” Dan Puglielli, the Principal of Joseph Brant Public School said.
The Hadden Family Foundation is the main financial contributor to the beyond 3:30 program and president and founder Glenn Hadden visited Joseph Brant Public School to meet the kids and see how the program is working. Hadden was raised in east Scarborough and believes that who he is today has a lot to do with growing up in that community which is why he donates money to this program.
“Well the most important thing for me is trying to close what we call the opportunity gap, and unfortunately in places like east Scarborough, gangs and other negative influences are a sad prevalence in this community so we’re focussed on trying to close that opportunity gap via what we deemed to be the two most important factors which are education and nutrition,” said Hadden.