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FC after-school program gets $1.8M

Since the Franklin County after-school programs began in 2001, some years have been easier than others to keep the programs running. After a string of tough years, things are looking up with a total of $1.8 million tabbed for the programs over the next three years.

The funding is part of the 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant, with Franklin County securing a total of three grants. Red Bay and Vina were included in one grant, Tharptown and Belgreen in a second grant and East Franklin and Phil Campbell in a third grant for a total of $600,000 per year for three years.

“We were going to keep the after-school centers going, but it was going to be a struggle since Franklin County is so poverty stricken and there are so many kids who need help,” said grant writer Susan Hargett. “We just felt so blessed and humbled to receive this money.”

Franklin County received one of the highest grant amounts in the state, with only Mobile County receiving more and Tuscaloosa County receiving the same amount.

Franklin County received the money in October to begin preparing for changes within the programs. Hargett said a large part of the grant is going to go toward personnel, but the remainder of the money will go toward activities to help enrich students.

“After school brings a lot of innovative new ideas, to be more hands on and engaging and let kids explore things they might not have the time to during the regular school day,” Hargett said.

The Franklin County Extension Office served as a co-applicant for the grant, which Hargett said helped give the application bonus points.

Franklin County Extension Coordinator Katernia Cole-Coffey will work with students at the various locations to teach them about nutrition, and students will have opportunities to learn more about math, science, art and recreational activities.

“It’s kind of like hands on, minds on,” Cole-Coffey said. “It helps expose kids to a lot of new things.”

Hargett said students have the opportunity use iPads, Chromebooks and Osmos to learn new things.

“The thing with kids is, you never know when you are going to hit on something that makes them decide this is something they might like to do for the rest of their lives,” Hargett said.

After-school programs are located at all Franklin County elementary schools for students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, free to all students. Approximately 300 children participate in a Franklin County after-school program.

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