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Harvard To Give Aid to Afterschool Programs

By Imtiyaz H. Delawala, Crimson Staff Writer

In a significant move to increase its investment in Boston neighborhoods, the University sent out letters last month to afterschool programs it will be funding under the terms of the Boston Afterschool For All Partnership announced last March.

Over the next five years, Harvard will be committing $5 million to the partnership, adding to a total $23 million promised by both public and private institutions to afterschool programs in the Boston area.

Now, nine months after the partnership was announced, Phillips Brooks House Association’s Mission Hill Afterschool Program (MHASP) will be one of several grant recipients to be announced at a ceremony planned for Jan. 9. The ceremony will feature University President Lawrence H. Summers and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

Through a committee of faculty members, administrators and students, Harvard selected 20 established afterschool providers last month to receive grants of up to $20,000 each, with recipients coming from Harvard’s three Boston host communities of Allston/Brighton, Fenway and Mission Hill.

Members of the MHASP say their program has already been informed that it will receive a majority of $20,000 requested.

“This will have a huge impact on our program,” says Brad Cenko, an administrative director for the MHASP in charge of grants. “The amount of resources Harvard is devoting is more than we’ve ever seen.”

Cenko says the group plans to use some of the funds to “implement a curriculum on civic engagement in the political process,” with hopes of taking Mission Hill students on a trip to Washington, D.C. over spring break.

“The purpose of the program will be two-fold—to create active political and social awareness, and to inspire them to take on roles of leadership to implement changes in their community,” Cenko says.

Kevin A. McCluskey ’76, Harvard’s director of community relations for Boston, has helped organize the grants selection process for the University, which began with a request for proposals after Labor Day, and culminated in a thorough application review process completed last month.

“It’s been a good process,” McCluskey says. “We’ve had the capacity to move quickly, efficiently and thoughtfully…to get helpful dollars in to the hands of the service providers doing the work on the ground.”

According to McCluskey, the majority of grants will focus on improving afterschool program quality, increasing access to programs and strengthening the connection between afterschool programs and the learning process.

“They all are meant to be program support grants,” McCluskey says. “That’s the focus.”

Studying Education

Beyond its monetary investment, Harvard has also been investing its teaching and research efforts into the afterschool initiative, working on several fronts to improve afterschool teacher training, curricula and recruitment.

Led by Professor Gil G. Noam, the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Program in Afterschool Education and Research (PAER) has been heavily involved in faculty and research efforts related to the afterschool initiative.

For the last six months, PAER has conducted research and interviews in order to create a comprehensive report on learning in afterschool settings. Noam says the goal is to develop a “research and training agenda to improve quality learning opportunities in afterschool settings.”

Noam says Harvard has worked to determine community needs through interviews with afterschool providers in Harvard’s host communities.

“We want to really engage the community,” Noam says. “We don’t just want to drop things on them.”

Meanwhile, an interfaculty group, titled “Youth Development and Afterschool Time,” co-sponsored by PAER and the Harvard Children’s Initiative, is working to bring afterschool studies into the accepted realm of academic learning by engaging in active afterschool research.

Beyond research, Harvard has sent its own students into established afterschool programs as part of their academic work.

Students from Noam’s course “The Afterschool Child: Development, Urban Programs and Policy” volunteer once a week in programs throughout Boston. Several of Noam’s students who took the course last spring now have jobs as afterschool coordinators and in policy positions related to out-of-school time.

“This is proving a very successful way to provide afterschool programs with supervised students and training sites for future leaders in the growing afterschool field,” Noam says.

In addition, students at the Graduate School of Education are serving as consultants to programs in Boston for curriculum development, training issues and organizational structure, in addition to consulting with Phillips Brooks House afterschool providers at Harvard.

And beginning in January, PAER will present a series of integrated training workshops in collaboration with psychiatrists and clinical psychologists at McLean Hospital and Mass. General Hospital. The workshops, which will run through the summer, will deal with issues ranging from how to access the mental health system to working with depressed children in an afterschool setting.

Noam says these workshops will address problems that afterschool providers may not have training for, such as behavior management.

“We’ve talked to programs, and they have said this is a problem for them,” Noam says.

Taking The Lead

While Harvard has advanced its own afterschool goals—the overall partnership, which includes the city of Boston, United Way of Massachusetts Bay, Liberty Mutual, Verizon and FleetBoston Financial—has been moving slowly.

Christopher F.O. Gabrieli ’81, chair of the Afterschool For All Partnership, says the overall progress is “about three months behind” what he expected, with formal grant announcements not planned until the spring.

But he says the slow development is due to the first-time nature of the public-private partnership.

“We’re really doing something extremely novel here,” Gabrieli says. “We’re inventing as we go along.”

And Gabrieli maintains there has been progress throughout the last nine months through meetings coordinating efforts of individual partners.

“There’s a lot going on, and its been happening very intensively,” Gabrieli says. “We’re managing a lot of pots at the same time.”

Despite the delays, Gabrieli praised Harvard’s research and training efforts, and the impact the University’s “intellectual firepower” will have on the rest of the partnership.

Harvard officials say the research that the University develops will be shared with the other members of the partnership.

“Harvard has been an excellent partner in working to aggressively pursue its mandate,” Gabrieli says. “I’m confident that their research will become important to our overall strategy.”

Harvard’s Noam agrees, saying that Harvard’s involvement will be key to creating a base of knowledge for the partnership, and for the afterschool field as a whole.

“We have been very active, indeed, in laying the groundwork for this five-year initiative,” Noam says. “It’s an exciting time in this field and it is great that Harvard is taking a leadership role.”

—Staff writer Imtiyaz H. Delawala can be reached at delawala@fas.harvard.edu.

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