Teachers, parents, and other adults are joining forces to help a group of kids in the Jane-Finch corridor of North-West Toronto beat the odds. This select group of kids is scoring exceptionally well on reading assessments. In fact, they’re outperforming their peers. The secret to their success is not just what they do at school: it’s also what they do after school.
In a community characterized by high teen pregnancy, working poor, single mother households, poverty, crime, gang-related violence, unemployment, inter-racial tensions, and drug activity, the San Romanoway Revitalization Association’s (SRRA) after-school program provides a safe and supervised environment for youth who would otherwise be home alone while their parents work.
“Our kids know they have a safe place to go to after-school where they will get a good meal. This instills a great sense of security that is often lacking among these children,” says Rosie Pera, SRRA program co-ordinator.
Jane-Finch is a dynamic community and SRRA offers important initiatives that help improve academic achievement and community image. Since 2005, RBC has supported the program for youth aged 16 to 18. Participants grow through positive experiences and lessons that enable them to achieve better grades, improve social skills, and gain higher self-esteem.
Led by five program leaders and eight volunteers, SRRA runs five days a week. Participants benefit from a range of activities including tutoring, skill-based athletics, hands-on math and science, art Instruction, mentoring, leadership, and music – steel pan and African Cuban drumming. They also receive a meal.
No child is ever turned away.
Communication plays a key role in the success of the program. Students’ agendas ensure cooperation by keeping everyone informed and accountable. SRRA also tries to keep the same staff so the kids forge relationships with them. Staff consistency makes a distinct difference in this rich, spirited, community that has volatile relations with police.
“As kids get to know the staff, they start to trust us. For some, we become a surrogate family.” explains Rosie. “When they come in after school, they all rush to us for hugs, without even dropping their backpacks. They want to tell us about their day, they feel the attention we give them.”
RBC believes that learning shouldn’t have to end when the school bell rings. That’s why we created the RBC After-School Grants Program which extends learning beyond the school day. To date, we have donated more than $25 million to organizations that provide children with a safe place to go after school, where they can develop knowledge, social skills and self-esteem.