Research repeatedly shows that a healthy mind and body are a strong foundation for success in school and life. At Meyzeek Middle School, CLASP (Collaborative Learning After-School Program), is a year-round out-of-school (OST) program led by Family & Children’s Place – a Metro United Way partner agency – that focuses on a wide range of activities that positively impact the entire family. These include daily help with homework and academics, life-skills development, social competency, a food literacy and gardening program, group discussions on anger management techniques, substance abuse avoidance and more.
We know that Kentucky ranks last in the number children with emotional, behavioral and developmental issues and nearly 1 in 4 adults in our community suffer from a diagnosable mental illness. CLASP’s OST program tackles these issues head-on with open and honest group discussions that have a very important rule – respect all opinions and work together. One parent noted, “The program has helped my child talk to his teachers when he has a problem. He is less shy and more outgoing.”
Each evening has a different topic, starting with Mental Health Mondays, which includes coping strategies, art therapy and other creative ways to deal with stress and anger. Tuesdays are Family Nights, where as many as twelve families come together to learn about a wide range of topics, including cooking classes and watching documentaries about healthy food. By discussing things like how often families sit to watch TV or eat in bed and how that affects the mind and body, parents and children alike have lost weight and changed habits to promote a healthier life!
Physical Fridays include a fitness test to mark where a kid’s fitness level currently stands as well as the progress they’ve made through the activities at CLASP. The program directors are sure to include games from different cultures, not just popular sports like football or basketball. They listen to input from children and deliver activities that are fun and interesting.
A special component of the program that leads to increased buy-in and success is a sense of ownership by the youth. Director of Meyzeek’s Family & School Services team Jo Cruz said, “The youth truly have a voice and ownership in what we do and how we do it,” through use of a suggestion box, from something as small as snack suggestions to the entire focus of group discussions.
Partnering with programs such as CLASP, that prepare children and families to achieve their full potential is how Metro United Way is helping to build a healthier, more resilient community!