It takes a village; Moreno Valley partnership creates new afterschool program
The city of Moreno Valley won the 2020 Helen Putnam Award for CCS Partnership Intergovernmental Collaboration Award. For more information about the award program, visit www.helenputnam.org.
One-third of California’s TK-12 students perform below grade level, including students in Moreno Valley, Riverside County’s second-largest city. The groups most affected within Moreno Valley Unified School District (MVUSD) and Val Verde Unified School District (VVUSD) have been from low socio-economic communities, African American communities, Latinx communities, and English language learner students. Both districts are characterized by low-income neighborhoods and limited academic support at home.
The city recognized the need to support students, parents’ need to work, and the community overall. Realizing this, Moreno Valley collaborated with both school districts to create an expanded afterschool learning program. The goal of the program was to provide safety, fun, and academic support immediately after school and peace of mind to parents, at no cost.
Without the program, parents would struggle between finding and paying for care or leaving children unattended in order to work. The achievement gap would continue to grow for students whose families lacked resources. Moreover, crime statistics clearly document the need to engage and keep students safe immediately after school, the time when juvenile crime is highest.
“The hours between the time when school lets out and parents get home from work are the riskiest time of day for children,” said Dr. Yxstian Gutierrez, Mayor of Moreno Valley. “The city’s Afterschool Expanded Learning Program provides students with a fun, safe learning and socializing environment that keeps them out of trouble and on the path to success.”
To address the community’s needs, the city applied for After School Education and Safety (ASES) Grant funds in 2007 and received $4,950,000 to serve 41 schools and 3600 students. This was unusual for a municipality, since most ASES grantees are local education agencies. Leading up to 2011, the city experienced challenges staffing such an expansive program and fiscal constraints with fixed grant funding.
Moreno Valley collaborated with its school district partners on solutions to avoid charging fees for the program, which led to hiring the organization Think Together. This new four-way partnership between the city, both school districts, and Think Together created even stronger relationships and broader resources for the program.
Today, the program budget totals $8 million, including ASES grant funding of $6, million, and cash and in-kind donations of over $2 million The city is strongly committed to the program’s success and channels 97% of grant funds for program operation, absorbing all indirect program costs of over $100,000 annually.
The school districts provide use of facilities, professional development, and training opportunities for program staff and daily nutritious snacks for students. In years when funding and donations were insufficient to cover program costs, the school districts contributed $160,000 to maintain maximum service levels.
“The Think Together partnership is a great program for our students that allows us to utilize that after-school time for academic enrichment and social development,” said MVUSD Superintendent Dr. Martinrex Kedziora. “We appreciate and value the work that they do for our families, especially during this time. We are happy to maintain Think Together services to offer additional support to families and are proud of the recognition for the Helen Putnam Award.
Think Together volunteer recruitments from local colleges and school districts promote workforce readiness in the community and provide more than 6,000 hours of program support. They also provide 300 local jobs and philanthropic efforts substantially support the program with $400,000 on average. Additional grant support includes Target and Kaiser Permanente’s healthy living programs, a new United Way mentorship program, and LA84 sports programs. Technical support, networking, and training are provided by the Riverside County Office of Education.
The benefits of the program are many. Students receive academic, social, and emotional support, character building, and enrichment opportunities. Youth development occurs at all grade levels — elementary through middle school — and is geared toward college and career preparation and creating successful adults.
There are also indirect benefits to the community, as children receive positive, constructive programming, rather than being left unattended at critical times when juvenile crime is highest. Moreover, parents can rely on homework support in a safe environment while they work and the school districts value having input on program activities that reinforce school curriculum. “Our interagency partnership with the city of Moreno Valley and Think Together has allowed us to create an afterschool program that reinforces district academic priorities while providing vital childcare for our families,” explained VVUSD Superintendent Michael R. McCormick. “We have benefited as a community from this very successful initiative.”
The clearest indicators of the program’s success are high attendance and demand for the program. Many sites have waiting lists. As a result, the city received increased ASES funding to maximum levels for all 43 eligible schools and now serves more than 4,000 students. Since the program’s inception in 2007, the program has served over 46,000 students.
As opportunities present themselves, partners work together for the benefit of students. Moreno Valley Unified School District has fully sponsored the same program at two remaining schools not eligible for ASES grants and committed funding for five additional staff this year.
Other examples involve new grant opportunities, such as a federal grant for a summer program at an elementary school, which coordinates seamlessly with the existing MVUSD Summer Learning Program. Partnering on a pilot grant created funding for a computer coding program at three schools and encouraged further development of a Think Together coding program that will expand into each school. The importance of these hands-on experiences for students should not be underestimated, as they lead them to explore careers they may not have previously considered.
The relationships between the partners grow stronger over time and are an invaluable benefit to students and the community. “We’re honored to receive this award alongside our esteemed community partners at the City of Moreno Valley and Moreno Valley and Val Verde unified school districts,” said Adriana Garcia-Kingston, M.Ed., General Manager for Think Together. “This recognition exemplifies the need for afterschool programs in our communities and the potential they have to make a big difference in the lives of the students we serve.”
Contact: Sandra Brieno, Senior Management Analyst, Parks & Community Services Dept., (951) 413-3726