Smiths Falls resurrects youth after school programming

Posted on: September 15, 2017

Chris Must

Although financial difficulties recently caused the Smiths Falls & District Centre for Youth to close its building on Main Street West, funding has been found to continue an after school program, town councillors were told at a Sept. 11 meeting.

Art Manhire, the town’s Manager of Community Services, said Lanark County will transfer funding originally earmarked for the centre to run a program upstairs at the town’s Youth Arena.
The program will start Oct. 2, said Manhire.

Lanark County had budgeted $40,000 to support the work of the centre in 2017, to be divided into four payments. The final payment of $10,000 has not been made, and the county has agreed to provide that funding for the new program.
The program will also receive up to $30,000 from the provincial Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, said Manhire. Known as Ontario’s After School Program, the initiative began in 2008, and is available to qualifying groups across the province.

According to information from the ministry, the program “is focused on supporting specific priority after school programs focused on physical activity, health eating and nutrition, wellness, and personal health education.” Goals of the program include decreased childhood obesity, and increased healthy eating and physical activity, improved student achievement, and reduced rates of youth violence and childhood poverty. The program is to be run between the end of the school day and 6 p.m.

Manhire said the town is working with two community partners – the Perth-based YAK Youth Centre and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Lanark County – to deliver the program. The partners came together after the closure of the Smiths Falls youth centre to see what programming could be salvaged, said Manhire, “and the after school program is one of those pieces.”

Although the program is supposed to start in September, said Manhire, the province has allowed Smiths Falls to delay it until Oct. 2 to allow time to hire staff and arrange for materials. The staff will be hired by Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

Manhire said the town will continue to build a model for youth service delivery in Smiths Falls, of which the after school program will only be one part.

Having the program operate at the Youth Arena offers the advantage of leveraging one of the town’s existing facilities. It also prevents young people, who may already feel isolated, from being removed from the rest of the community, said Manhire. “It’s a good idea to have it here,” he said.

The program will be promoted in local schools and on social media. More information may be obtained by contacting Big Brothers/Big Sisters’ head office in Smiths Falls.