It’s 3:15 p.m., and about 30 students at Lynn Road Elementary throw their book bags on the floor near one of the school’s sitting pods and begin to talk about what they learned today.
They also discuss how many times they were caught being good. Afterwards, they line up, go to a classroom and begin their homework. Later, they’ll file back out to play a game or complete an activity.
It’s a typical after-school program, except the students’ parents aren’t paying for the service. Instead, the local YMCA branch has subsidized the cost for students to help build academic skills while providing a service for working parents.
The A.E. Finley YMCA off Baileywick Road has been funding programs like Y Learning at Lynn Road Elementary for a quarter of a century. Over the next six months, the A.E. Finley branch will celebrate its 25th anniversary of helping more than 18,000 people in North Raleigh.
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On Thursday, the A.E. Finley YMCA hosted a celebration to mark the end of this year’s fundraising campaign, which raised $668,839. Through its We Build People campaign, the branch can subsidize participants’ costs.
Lynn Road Elementary’s Y Learning program is one that is funded by the We Build People campaign.
The Y Learning program is meant to help students who may fall behind at school but whose parents can’t afford a traditional after-school program. A $1,475 donation helps fund one full year of the program for one student, according to an annual campaign guide.
Emily Clark, the youth director of the Y Learning program at Lynn Road Elementary, said the program is a win-win for children and parents. It’s fun for students, and it allows parents an affordable after-school option.
Lynn Road Elementary does not have the highest percentage of students who receive free or reduced-price lunch in Wake County or even in North Raleigh, but there’s still a need, Clark said.
“The reality is that our kids are bused in from all over the county,” she said.
Green, Lead Mine and York elementary schools also have the Y Learning program for students. Like all YMCA programs, it is free to qualifying participants.
All of the free or low-cost programs the Y offers are meant to address a specific need in the community, said Nancy Cummings, the YMCA’s regional communications director. Many of the programs for children focus on supporting academic success while building a well-rounded child.
In addition to children’s programs, the We Build People campaign funds free swimming lessons for the family, a free exercise and wellness class for adult cancer patients and mentoring programs. It also helps subsidize the cost of summer camp for children.
“It’s really just about changing futures and the way they think about themselves,” Cummings said.