In partnership with the South Lane School District, the Eugene Family YMCA has expanded its Cottage Grove afterschool program at Harrison Elementary School to include students from Bohemia, Dorena and London elementary schools.
“This level of expansion would not be possible without transportation support by South Lane School District,” said YMCA Youth Development Director Holly Kriz-Anderson. “Our robust partnership with South Lane School District is what makes growing our services so quickly in a new community a reality.”
The expansion includes a new busing transportation system, effectively offering services to all elementary schools within the South Lane School District.
Though growing, the program has struggled to meet enrollment expectations since opening the site last fall.
“When our numbers didn’t get as high as we would’ve liked them to be, we approached the school district and asked about transportation from the other schools to Harrison,” said Kriz-Anderson.
The South Lane School District agreed and began the new service to bus students from the three schools to the Harrison site on Feb. 1.
“It’s going to be nice because the space at Harrison is so big, it will be able to accommodate however many kids are coming from each school,” said Kriz-Anderson.
The space has an enrollment capacity of 45 children though currently serves only 19 Harrison students.
Finding staff to fill positions was also a challenge when the program initially started up last fall.
“It is still an issue,” said Kriz-Anderson.
There are currently three staff members at the site.
“We would love to hire people from Cottage Grove who have worked with kids or who want to work with kids,” said Kriz-Anderson. “We want to hire young seniors or students who are going to Lane [Community College] who want to get youth experience or maybe want to get an education degree. So we can give them that experience.”
Kriz-Anderson is hopeful the busing service will bring enrollment closer to capacity and thus more hiring opportunities, though the timing of the expansion is expected to effect a slow start.
“Starting something mid-year isn’t ideal, but at least the information will be out there,” she said, “so when September comes around … then it will be known and so when families are looking for care, they’ll know that the Y has an option.”
The program at Harrison makes use of the school’s cafeteria, gym, playground and project studio for an array of activities.
In meeting the nonprofit’s stated goal of “strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility,” children are treated to fruit snacks, games, physical activities, cooking, art projects and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities.
In addition, the program offers homework assistance to students who need it.
“They also learn how to work with your friends if you’re having a disagreement – problem-solving skills and social/emotional learning,” said Kriz-Anderson. “We have a service-learning component as well, which happens once a month, just showing how important it is to give back to our community or to help at school or to do something nice for somebody else.”
The program runs from the end of school until 6 p.m.
With a tuition set at $295 per month, the cost can be prohibitive for some families, though the YMCA offers financial assistance to those who demonstrate need.
“One of the goals of the Y is to not turn any family away for financial need,” said Kriz-Anderson. “We ask for paperwork, but we also ask for people to tell us their story because sometimes what you put down on a piece of paper doesn’t tell us everything.”
The Eugene Family YMCA states that it awarded $451,618 in financial assistance in 2018.
“Quality childcare is a high priority but often a financial and logistical puzzle for families,” said Eugene Family YMCA CEO Brian Steffen in a press release. “The Y’s mission is to provide services to all — regardless of ability to pay. This expansion helps us fulfill that mission in a place where the need is quite high.”
Kriz-Anderson added that local donations to the YMCA can be earmarked for specific community use as well.
Significant financial backing came in December when a Weyerhauser Giving Fund grant helped support the program.
“We are so grateful to the Weyerhaeuser Giving Fund for a $29,800 grant to support the Y’s afterschool expansion into communities like Cottage Grove,” said Kriz-Anderson. “Weyerhaeuser is helping us fulfill our vision of a future where every working family has access to affordable safe enrichment programs that kids love.”
More information about the Eugene Family YMCA can be found online at www.eugeneymca.org.