The Amistad Plaza is a non-profit organization that provides housing options and other services to low-income families, the elderly, and people with disabilities to enhance their quality of life physically, mentally and spiritually.
More than 75 children reside in the Amistad Plaza, and more than 77 percent of those children are living in single-parent households. The staff at the residence are attempting to give these at-risk youth guidance, support and resources that they need to reach their full potential by incorporating an after school program into the services offered.
The program will be available to residents of the community and will run Monday through Friday from 3 to 6:30 p.m.
Each day the program will offer healthy snack choices, homework help, tutoring, and will end with an hour and a half of physical activity.
“The facility is really trying to empower the community,” explained Destinee DeWalt Social Service Coordinator, who said she decided to tackle the project after seeing the need in the neighborhood. “These children don’t have any positive extracurricular activities to participate in after school, and now that schools are cutting back on artistic components it’s becoming even more difficult for children to have productive outlets.”
The organization had its first dance class this week. One organization has donated a musical organ, and others have donated other art supplies. The after-school program still needs letters expressing the community’s support, monetary donations, art supplies, school supplies, volunteer tutors, an organ player to teach lessons to the students and healthy snacks.
“Our community is filled with resources, and all we need to do is tap into them. The response from the community has been very positive, and they just need to see it unfold. Getting children to participate in the program isn’t the problem; money is the biggest issue,” said DeWalt, who is currently waiting on approval of a grant application.
All of the teachers and tutors will initially be volunteers, and the program will be free to the students who participate, but DeWalt looks forward to the day when her staff is paid.
“I want this program to be quality. I don’t want to have to worry about people flaking or choosing to put other things first, because they aren’t getting paid here. I don’t want things to be a mess, I want to make sure these children are getting quality services.”
Although the program will start out originally with only the children that reside in the Amistad Plaza, DeWalt hopes to expand the opportunities to children throughout the entire community, once she has secured the resources.
“I want to get the message to these kids that no matter how much money they make, or how much their parents make, or their economic status, that they still have countless abilities and countless opportunities available. We are going to help with their academics and maintain their intellect,” said DeWalt who added it would be ideal if they were able to partner with other organizations trying to accomplish the same goal.