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Afterschool care?  If you haven’t checked that off the list yet, now is the time to explore your options so you can find the best fit for your child.

One of the most important decisions parents can make for the coming school year is how their children will be cared for when school lets out for the day.

Research shows that kids who participate in afterschool programs are more successful in academics, are healthier and more often maintain positive behaviors.  At the Somerset Valley YMCA and other Ys across New Jersey, afterschool programming is specially geared to achieve these results.

“Our YMCAs in New Jersey are committed to being among the largest and healthiest providers of afafterschool programming in the state,” said Bill Lovett, New Jersey YMCA State Alliance executive director.“The combination of enrichment and extended learning opportunities is essential to increasing children’s success in school.”

Every September, YMCAs across New Jersey open their doors to thousands of children who arrive by bus or on foot when school dismissal bells ring. Thousands more are cared for by YMCA staff, who manage afterschool programs in many of the state’s public schools.

In total, 36 Ys in New Jersey operate more than 400 afterschool programs, including the Somerset Valley YMCA’s Hillsborough and Somerville branches.

The Y’s curriculum framework — created in partnership with the National Institute on Out-of-School Time — offers comprehensive, age-appropriate, engaging care. Afterschool programming focuses on eight core content areas: arts and humanities, character development, health and wellness, homework support, literacy, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), service learning and social competence and conflict resolution.

Local YMCAs model their programs after this national Y framework.

At the Somerset Valley YMCA in Hillsborough, a grant to offset the cost of STEM programming allows afterschool kids to do hands-on science enrichment and learn financial responsibility. More STEM programs are expected to be implemented in the Somerville Branch this fall.

“Our goal is to give every child in our community the opportunity to participate in healthy after school activities that will enrich their lives academically and socially,” said Jessica Brock, Afterschool and Camp Director at the Somerville Branch. 

Y afterschool programs across the state also incorporate the Healthy U program, which focuses on building healthier kids through physical activity and teaching proper nutrition.

“For students to be effective learner they need to be active,” said Sue Cornell, Healthy U Coordinator for the YMCA State Alliance. “Recent research has shown that being healthier helps improve cognitive performance and keeps kids focused and on task.

Nationwide, data from a parent survey shows strong support for the Y’s afterschool curriculum.

In May, Y of the USA released the results of a national survey of nearly 8,000 afterschool respondents, 78 percent of whom said they would very likely return to a Y program, while 68 percent would actively recommend it to a friend.

Of the survey respondents, 90 percent agreed that Y afterschool programs reflected the Y core values of honesty, respect and responsibility, while 75 percent said their children did better in school and 88 percent found their children were more physically active because of their afterschool programs.

The Y is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits in strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. To ensure everyone has the ability to benefit from Y services, financial assistance is available for those who qualify.