Bright News

Tim Reid: After-school programs like Bright Futures for Youth are needed more than ever

This article was published in its entirety in The Union on October 19, 2021.

Nevada County youth are in critical need of support and education, especially during the past 18 months that have set them back educationally and emotionally.

Nevada County students have suffered trauma and extreme social-emotional strain. We have seen an increase in students admitted to the hospital, increased negative behavior at school and trouble connecting with peers.

Local school staffs are working long hours, keeping students safe and teaching students who have fallen behind in reading, math and other skills because of the COVID-19 pandemic and distance learning.

What about students after the school day, when many have nowhere else to go? The hours immediately after school and before many parents come home from work — 3:30 to 6 p.m. — are the most dangerous for youth.

Those students who regularly attend high-quality after-school programs improve their social and emotional abilities such as self-awareness, self-control and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work and life success.

Organizations that offer after-school programs, such as Bright Futures for Youth, are critical for the community and helping youth connect with each other, learn new skills and, perhaps most important, stay safe.

Bright Futures for Youth’s three programs — NEO, Friendship Club and SAFE — also help students develop socially and emotionally.

Bright Futures for Youth’s after-school programs encompass a broad range of focus areas, including academic support; mentoring; positive youth development; arts; sports and recreation; apprenticeships; workforce development programs; and efforts for homeless youth.

The programs also extend learning and ensure access to support from peers and adults, including mentors.

Each of Bright Futures for Youth’s three programs connects with youth in different ways, though there are many children and young adults who participate in multiple programs.

— NEO offers after-school programs for middle and high school students. NEO activities are inclusive and support many different student groups offering art, music, games and academic help. NEO has been a lifeline for many youth with nowhere to go.

— For girls and young women, The Friendship Club is a comprehensive program that helps develop camaraderie and build a foundation for success in school and life.

— Unfortunately, many of our students need more than NEO and The Friendship Club. The SAFE program helps youth experiencing homelessness find homes, get food and help with transportation, receive much-needed services like health care and counseling, and get jobs.

Bright Futures for Youth and other after-school programs in the community are critical to the overall development of youth.

After-school programs nationwide and in Nevada County serve a wide range of youth from high-to-low-income households, those from good homes to students living on the street.

This diverse group of students come together for one reason – a sense of belonging. Without these programs, youth could get into trouble.

Our community benefits in many ways from Bright Futures for Youth and other after-school programs, including reducing crime and seeing youth contribute to their community and pay taxes. But these organizations cannot do it alone, they need the community’s help, from donating dollars to investing your time as a volunteer.

If we can develop and support the social-emotional health of our youth, we can create schools where young people thrive and enjoy safe and healthy communities.

This work deserves and needs our support. Bright Futures for Youth relies on significant financial contributions to help more than 200 youth every week in our year-round program.

Every donation makes a difference. However, just as important as donations is the investment of time. Bright Futures depends on volunteers, from after-school drivers to mentors, to power our programs. Most importantly, each volunteer makes a big difference in the lives of our youth — and the future of our community.

Tim Reid is assistant principal at Nevada Union High School and a Bright Futures for Youth board member.