United Way Sets Sights High for Success After 6

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When it’s launched at the beginning of the next school year, the Success After 6 program run by United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley will have a great impact on the city and its students, organizers say.

The United Way is partnering with the YMCA of Youngstown to provide after-school programming at the Youngstown Community School.

“This will not fail. This cannot fail for the sake of our kids,” said Ed Muransky, a member of the school’s board, at a press event Monday announcing the initiative. “We want this to be the most innovative program in any inner city in America and change the direction of how these kids are educated.”

Success After 6 will focus on four major areas, said United Way Youngstown President Bob Hannon: social and emotional development, literacy, attendance and nutrition.

“We’ve got to get children to [their] grade reading level. If they aren’t reading by third grade, it’ll be tough for them to make it,” Hannon said. “We’ll be here throughout the school day providing emotional and social support, looking at data on how we can improve literacy and how we can get parents engaged.”

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, said the program is “exactly what needs to happen” for Youngstown and the students in the city.

“This is getting back to the fundamentals. This is how you help kids,” he said. “By giving them these essential skills, you give them hope for the future. It’s empowering. There’s nothing worse than feeling powerless. We’re going to give them the hope and skills they need to be successful.”

Sarah Brown-Clark, board chairwoman of United Way, said that many programs intended to help young students begin to fail around the third or fourth grades as students lose interest.

“We start them in kindergarten, put them in Head Start and by the third or fourth grades, we lose them,” she said. “On behalf of the United Way board, I want to tell you that we have no intention of losing the 100 children that we’re beginning with in the fall of 2015.”

The program will be held at the school just off Market Street four days a week – Monday through Thursday – from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. While in the program, students will be helped with their school work and get lessons on a variety of topics, from music to dance to art. All students will receive a hot meal before being bused home, Hannon said.

“It’s an opportunity for our students to get more of a program than they get during the school day, an opportunity to work with parents and get them involved and an opportunity to make children successful,” said Youngstown Community School principal Dennis Rice. “It’s going to be fun. There will be learning opportunities.”

While the after school program will serve about 100 kids in kindergarten through third grade in its first year, Hannon said, 230 students at Youngstown Community School will be enrolled in the program, receiving support through a United Way coordinator stationed at the school.

Success After 6 will also be associated with The Hawn Foundation’s MindUP program to teach social and emotional skills to the students.

“It helps identify which emotional state they’re in and then help them regulate themselves. Self-regulation of your own emotional self is really a key to success. If you can’t keep calm, you can’t learn,” said Ryan, who connected United Way and the foundation. “If there are kids coming in from homes or neighborhoods filled with violence, they can’t function properly.”

“Improving the education of all children is a key priority ad a signature program of all YMCAs,” said Timothy M. Hilk, president and CEO of the YMCA of Youngstown.

“This work is very important and right in the YMCA’s wheelhouse. It’s important work and if we can’t close this achievement gap in Youngstown, we’ll be in a lot of trouble.”

Hannon’s plans for expansion of Success After 6 are ambitious. By the fall of 2016, he hopes to have the program in Youngstown City Schools and expand the program to include fourth grade, adding levels until Success After 6 serves students from kindergarten through sixth grade.

“I hope we can find an elementary school who wants to take this and a passionate principal who wants to take this on. We have a good plan, we just need to execute,” he said. “We think that three or four years from now, we’ll be helping thousands of children on their way to success.”

Having groups such as United Way and the YMCA helping the students, Muransky said, can only benefit the students enrolled in the program.

“There’s nothing better for the kids than United Way. My family, our board and everyone here is excited to help in any way we can,” he said. “This is a game-changer for these kids.”

Pictured: Ed Muransky, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, Bob Hannon and Dennis Rice.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.