When Martha Haran, director of the Youth Services Council of Richardson, started the Skylark program at Skyview Elementary several months ago, she hoped 25 children would sign up.
Instead, enrollment in the program was capped at 60, and about 20 students are on a waiting list for the after-school enrichment program.
“Logic would say it would be popular,” Haran says, adding that she still didn’t expect that many students to participate.
The program, which is sponsored and run by the Youth Service Council of Richardson, offers after-school enrichment programs for the school’s students at a nominal fee. The programs are offered in four- to six-week increments, with a one-week break between each session.
During the sessions, participating children are provided after-school activities Monday through Thursday from 3:15-6 p.m.
The session starts off with a snack and check-in time, recess and a tutoring and study time. Then, depending on the day, participants may play games, do art, or have a piano, karate or dance lesson.
On Wednesdays, the children go to Lake Highlands North Recreation Center, and on Thursdays, they swim at the Richardson YWCA.
“The types of activities offered broaden their view of school,” Haran says.
The program was developed by the Youth Services Council, an umbrella group of organizations and individuals who are concerned about children.
Haran says the council has three major concerns: the mobility of students in the Lake Highlands area, improving quality and availability of child care, and involving children in positive activities. The Skylark program addresses all three.
By providing discounted enrichment programs, Haran says the program makes Skyview attractive to parents, and they are less likely to move knowing they couldn’t get a program like this anywhere else.
“Parents’ peace of mind and concern for the children is so important to them,” Haran says. “They cannot have this program everywhere.”
Also, the council works with the Spring Valley Athletic Association, encouraging Skyview students to become involved in after-school athletic teams at a discounted cost. Haran says she knows of students who save their allowance in order to participate in these athletic programs.
Skyview was selected for the program because its student population had one of the highest mobility rates in the area.
Skyview principal John Kalny says the program gives participating students a sense of community.
“They are now like one big group of kids,” Kalny says. “There is a lot of interplay, interpersonal relationships. There has been a very distinct sense of camaraderie and community in those Skylark kids.”
There is a fee for the program, but Haran says the lessons are provided at a lower rate than if a child went for private lessons. The program is funded by a grant from the Meadows Foundation and depends on volunteers for staffing.
Without the program, Haran says a majority of the participating students would probably be at home watching television with an older sibling supervising.
“We know if they’re not involved in something (positive), they’ll fill it with something,” Haran says. And possibly, they could fill it with something negative, she says.
For more information, call the council office at 238-6620.