A Young Adult’s View: Budget Cuts Should be Reversed in Afterschool Support

If I did not have the afterschool program when I was at Loy Norrix High School in Kalamazoo, I would definitely not be where I am today. I was a good kid overall, but I still liked to hang with the wrong crowd. I was cutting classes, and falling behind in English and math. My mom thought it would be helpful to have a mentor because although she was active in my life and helped me, there were still eight hours of the school when I couldn’t talk to her if I was having a bad day. A mentor and more support afterschool could not only help me academically and mentally, but could encourage my personal interests.
I received services including mentoring and tutoring through the Kalamazoo Public Schools afterschool program and the Kalamazoo County Youth Cabinet (KCYC). Finding that mentor in a well-rounded program for my needs was one of the best things to happen to me. To be accepted, I was asked to commit to be on time after school, and not run the hallways. The mentor stayed in touch with my teachers to know what homework and classwork needed to be done. The benefits and connections that I have acquired by age 24 as a result of KCYC have shaped a part of who I am today.

Recent news that was a shocker to me was learning that the Governor vetoed $600,000 for expanding wrap-around services in three different communities next year. The veto was part of a $128-million cut to education in a budget dispute with Legislative leaders. Unless the budget cut is restored thist year, this veto does and will limit services to school children. Should families and communities be effected on account of a disagreement?

KCYC really helped me make a successful transition from high school into college. This program helped me become more vocal and active in the community. It gave me the support in ways my family could not. (My mother, a nurse, was home to help me with my school work when I was in elementary school, but as I got older she took on more hours and wasn’t home right after school.) I learned to network, host events, lead sessions and do things I would never have thought of doing if I did not have this program. If you had a good progress report, you could go on college visits. I went from being a part of the group to being the youth advisor. That switch in roles gave me a sense of responsibility. I was now the mentor. I was now the one who provided that sense of safety and reassurance to other youth.

Mentoring is just one of many wrap-around services that help support children, and help lead them into their adult life. Wrap-around services in afterschool settings include tutoring, dental and health screening and social-emotional learning. These services are important because they help increase a child’s successful development academically and in life. Afterschool programs and supportive services that go with them have long-term benefits. I had help with my school work and learned how to look for a job through mock job and phone interviews.

These services not only help the child but the family, as well. Everything else falls into place when a youth’s needs are met. Students gain social skills, safety, academic support, and gain a sense of belonging. If you take that away, then you have done the complete opposite of everything you are trying to prevent. It is not fair for us to be on the losing end of budget disputes when we are the ones who need it the most. There is a difference between a want and a need, and this is a necessity.

Hopefully, my words will encourage whoever is reading this to make a change, get involved, and inspire you to speak up for not only your family but your community. As many times as you’ve heard it, I’ll say it again. YOUR VOICE MATTERS! YOU MATTER! Why not make it count.

Alexis Caples works as an administrative assistant in a physical therapy practice and attends Kalamazoo Community College studying law and criminal justice. She also serves on the Kyd Network Board of Directors.