UNITED STATES: Program helps meet after-school needs during pandemic
Salesian St. Dominic Savio Parish We Care after-school program hires and trains 26 new staff to help Downey Unified School District
(MissionNewswire) The We Care after-school program, run by the Salesian St. Dominic Savio Parish in Los Angeles County, California, recently helped the Downey Unified School District with increasing childcare availability. The city of Downey is located in southeast Los Angeles County.
When California’s governor gave schools in Los Angeles County the green light to return to in-person instruction, the city of Downey found itself without any after-school program for its 12 elementary schools. There were only seven business days before the schools opened again, and the school district needed to hire 26 people to staff its after-school programs.
Veronica Lizardi, director at Downey Unified School District, contacted JC Montenegro, director of the We Care program, to see how the Salesians could help. The We Care program started in 2014 to provide additional after-school programming for children in the neighborhood who were on a waiting list for the after-school programs provided by the city of Downey.
“We started with just 35 children and were soon serving over 115 children every school day,” stated Jonathan Lara, the program coordinator.
Through the We Care program, the Salesians were able to hire and train 26 young adults to serve in Downey’s after-school programs. Today, the We Care program serves more than 200 children every school day. Lara added, “We believe this was a miracle. We had only seven days to create a program, find and train its staff, and accomplish all the legal steps to be ready to serve children. We believe Don Bosco helped us to bring to reality a new Salesian presence among the children of Downey.”
Working throughout the United States and around the globe, Salesian missionaries have created a vast network of primary, secondary, vocational and technical schools serving poor youth. With a focus on education and workforce development, Salesians worldwide provide disadvantaged youth valuable resources to help them find livable wage employment to break the cycle of poverty and lead meaningful and productive lives.
Functioning side by side with Salesian schools, youth centers and after-school programs offer youth opportunities for engaging in constructive activities. Through organized programs, which often include sports and music, youth are taught teamwork and social skills while gaining opportunities for personal growth. Some youth centers also offer small medical clinics and, where needed, nutritional programs to protect children from malnutrition. Youth programs also offer valuable volunteer opportunities for youth to have a chance to engage with others and support their own communities.
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