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Late afternoon can be filled with empty hours occupied by mischief and aimlessness for at-risk youth in the low-income neighborhoods of Los Angeles. People become accustomed to the idea of "at risk," dismissing kids identified by the moniker as already lost. But the words and the kids are actually filled with great promise. To be at risk means you are merely on a precipice, able to go either way and not without hope or options. All that may be needed is a push in the right direction.
Team Prime Time (TPT), an enrichment provider of after-school programs specifically designed for kids considered to be the most at risk, provides that push. Its mission is to keep middle school students engaged during the highest risk hours of the day – those in the late afternoon, immediately following school.
Keeping Kids Off The Streets
Employing the adage "Helping Our Kids When It Matters Most," TPT's primary goal is to diminish juvenile crime and dropout rates for kids in Los Angeles. Founded in 2001, the organization creates after-school opportunities in Title I schools, where the majority of the student body qualifies for free or reduced lunch. Recognizing that kids with developmental disabilities are another significant at-risk group, TPT also produces a fully inclusive sports program called the Prime Time Games, which provides peer mentors and coaches for kids with differing skill sets.
Currently available in six Los Angeles schools, the group combines athletics and art programs with leadership training and academics. It looks to keep students engaged during the school day and also have something to look forward to after school. The ultimate goal is to raise high school graduation rates and increase the number of at-risk kids who go on to college.
How It's Done
Academics — The group provides daily homework assistance and tutoring as a mechanism for integrating school work with after-school work. Each child's needs are identified and addressed through personalized attention and a formal plan, which TPT calls an Individualized Tutorial Plan. Tutors remain in dialogue with school administrators and teachers about each pupil. This provides a team-based approach that allows educators to quickly identify issues and address them. Literacy and reading comprehension are cornerstone initiatives of TPT's academic push.
Athletics — Sports and teamwork go hand-in-hand. TPT provides on-campus flag football, basketball, soccer and volleyball leagues to promote physical activity, sportsmanship and higher levels of self-esteem. Non-seasonal sports such as tennis, golf and track are also provided all year round.
The Arts — The program's emphasis on art is triple pronged and goal oriented, providing kids with training in visual arts, media arts and performing arts. Each component is designed to accomplish specific goals. The visual arts program is geared toward Common Core Standards and the school's social sciences curriculum. Media arts provides a bird's-eye view into potential career options throughout a variety of fields including graphic design, photography and film production. The performing arts portion emphasizes literacy, reading and writing as well as building self-confidence.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.
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