I remember watching my classroom clock wind down at the end of the school day dreading each tick pass by. My mom would take a late lunch break to drive us home from school and drop us off. She would then head back to work for the last two hours of her shift. My sister and I were left alone at home with nothing to do except fight. This was in the late 90s when most families left their front doors unlocked and trusted their children to stay home alone. Some of my friends were in after-school programs and activities like cheerleading and band. I longed to be with them so I could avoid my tyrant of an older sister.
I was always a very active child and had trouble paying attention in school. My older sister hated helping me with homework because it usually took a while. My parents would come home from work exhausted and I would wait until the last minute to mention I had a worksheet in my backpack that needed to be finished. This usually led to me getting grounded.
One day my sister and I were so bored we decided to finally collaborate on something. We talked with our friends and heard about a community center not far from our house that offered karate and volleyball lessons, both of which piqued our interest. We made clear points to our parents about the advantages of getting homework help after school and also learning discipline and leadership skills in karate.
I remember a clear shift in my confidence now that I was in a program with my friends. I no longer dreaded each tick of the clock, I would leap out of my seat when the bell rang and met up with my afterschool classmates. My mom was thrilled my homework was done every day and I eventually did better in school because someone had the time to work with me one-on-one. My sister and I met a lot of friends and fought less each day.
Every October I look forward to Lights on Afterschool, a nationwide event that celebrates after-school programs. It is crucial for children to be in a structured program after school to strengthen their social skills as well as their academic progress. YWCA Youth Development serves children five to 12 years old. We pair children with Illinois State University Education Grad students, Boy Scouts teaches boys in the program how to be strong leaders, and we also match our students with a Smart Sprouts tutor to assist with homework. Please join us on Thursday, October 25 from 4:00-6:00 p.m. in the YWCA gym, to recognize the importance of Lights on Afterschool for children across America. The theme this year is Express Yourself. Prepare to be entertained!
After graduating from ISU, Melissa Breeden found what she thought would be a temporary job at YWCA McLean County. After almost ten years and various positions at YWCA, Melissa is proud to be the senior director of YWCA Young Wonders.