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#GivingTuesday 2018

Elijah Family Homes (EFH) is implementing a new Youth Activities Program benefiting the school age children within our existing Transition to Success (TTS) program for school age children. The activity funds would be used specifically to offset 50% of the cost of in school and after school programs, activities, community-structured, targeted activities, such as; orchestra, choir programs, dance programs, school sports, after school programs, summer camps and summer sports leagues. This would also include educational opportunities such as special technology camps and learning camps.

Studies have found that working class parents often face financial and time obstacles that prevent them from involving their children in many activities. Conversely, parents from higher socioeconomic status backgrounds are more likely to involve their school age children in a variety of scheduled activities than lower socioeconomic status parents. This phenomenon is referred to as concerted cultivation. These same studies explain that exposure to a variety of activities provides students with skills which help them navigate the educational system to their advantage. In contrast, children from lower socioeconomic status backgrounds do not gain these educational advantages.

Exposure to music and dance lessons as well as other kinds of structured activities such as sports or Boy/Girl Scouts serve as a means of cultural capital, providing benefits to students as they negotiate their way to the educational system. The number of extracurricular activities in which one participates has an effect for gains in reading and math test scores and that the returns for participation are greater for students from lower socioeconomic status backgrounds.

Students who participate in multiple activities develop cognitive and psychological skills that would help them to do well on achievement tests as well as in the classroom. Dance improves students creative thinking skills and that movement can reinforce cognitive skill development. Activities such as membership in a choir or on a sports team, music lessons, and scouts instill in young children the ability to perform in public, in front of adults, including strangers and to work smoothly with acquaintances (Adler and Adler 1994).

Most families EFH serves have extremely low incomes of $19,000.00 per year or less. The few clients that do earn more than the minimum wage may be paying court fines, child support, and other outstanding bills which keep them financially struggling to afford appropriate housing let alone any positive structured activities for their children. Because of these circumstances many of our clients with school age children lack the funds that would allow them to participate in extracurricular youth programs, after school activities, sports programs and summer camps.

There is a substantial cost to after school activities and summer camp programs. According to this year’s Backpack Index — an annual look at the cost of extracurricular activities compiled by The Huntington National Bank and nonprofit program, Communities in Schools — the increase is a little over 7%, across all grade levels. The average cost is nearly $739 per student this year. Because of the socioeconomic challenges, financial challenges that our clients face coupled with the societal and social expectations placed on the average school-age child, we see the need for our disadvantaged and at-risk children to have at-best a normal growing and learning childhood experience. This would include taking advantage of after school activities, sports and summer related programs.

Below is a more comprehensive list of the benefits associated with exposure to extracurricular activities:

  • Increased self-confidence and diligence.
  • Parents get to know other parents, during the process may learn different parenting styles and strategies, or tips for navigating the educational system.
  • Children learn new communication styles and obtain cultural capital through exposure to other children.
  • Develop a talent or skill.
  • Keeps school age children active and interested.
  • Widen a student’s areas of interest.
  • Children are introduced to new things, sometimes interesting, sometimes challenging.
  • Mastering a new art form or a new skill increases the child’s self-esteem.
  • Children get to meet others who share their interests and make new friendships.
  • Provides children and adolescents with diffuse but important cognitive and non-cognitive skills that subsequently yield both educational and occupational payoffs.
  • Participation positively affects psychosocial development.
  • Provides children with skills and dispositions that will serve as a source of advantages later in life.
  • They offer protection from destructive habits like drugs and alcohol.
  • Less prone to abuse, depression and burnout.
  • Significant increase in achievement and attendance and a reduction in dropout rates.