LINDEN – Starting an after-school program is never an easy feat, but Councilwoman Rhashonna Cosby-Hurling is determined to see it through with the help of parents, community leaders and local non-profits.
As the summer comes to a close, the concern for many parents now shifts back to “what will my youngsters do after school?”
Cosby-Hurling has been working to find an economical and safe way to handle this problem, but she needs help.
It was several years ago when the 5th Ward councilwoman realized there was a real need in the city for an after-school program, but like all projects, it takes a community to make a vision come to fruition.
“I believe the right after-school programs keep kids safe, improve academic performance, promote student well being and helps communities,” said the councilwoman, who also is a mother of school-aged children. “Input is critical so we can address the real needs of our community and that starts with finding out what parents need.”
While there are after-school programs available in Linden, there just are not enough, she says, and the cost is often too much for income strapped families to handle.
This concerned this councilwoman, who as a mother, understands that when you work, there is a real need for a safe place for school-aged children to go.
“It isn’t easy,” Cosby-Hurling said, explaining that just knowing there is a need for this type of service keeps her inspired and moving forward.
However, she says, there are miles to go.
Last year Cosby Hurling held a focus group where members of the private, business and non-profit community came together.
“There was a lot of support for a more structured after-school program,” she said in an interview with LocalSource Tuesday, adding this was a great incentive for moving forward.
“This year we made small strides by enhancing our game room at the Linden Multi-Purpose center,” she explained, noting that as chairperson of Public Property and Recreation, she is committed to seeing the city maximize use of the many recreational facilities in Linden that currently are going unused.
In order to fund additional after-school programs, Cosby-hurling explained that she is looking into grants and the help of nonprofit groups to facilitate this goal.
“It can be done and we are going to do it, hopefully by the end of the year,” she said.
The next step, and an important one, is getting parents who need this service to fill out a survey so Cosby-Hurling can determine exactly what the real need is in the city for this program.
“So far 65 people have responded to the survey and primarily they want a safe place for their children after school, while many also want their children to tackle their homework,” said Cosby-Hurling, explaining that it is important that others in the community also fill out this survey.
“This survey is for parents, educators and any adult in the community with an interest in participating,” she said.
Although there is no deadline to fill out the survey, the councilwoman is asking that anyone interested do so as soon as possible.
“I’m hoping to review this data within 90 days or so, if possible, so the city can create a program and initiate it by Jan. 1,” said Cosby-Hurling.
The survey, which can be accessed either by emailing Cosby at firstname.lastname@example.org so a copy can be sent to them, or by going online to www.surveymonkey.com/r/GZW9MKX.