Pendleton Parks & Rec Receives $220,000 for After School Program

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Pendleton Parks and Recreation has been awarded a $220,000 Youth Promise grant to support the After School Program.

The Youth Community Investment Grants, including the Youth Promise initiative, are distributed through the Oregon Department of Education on behalf of the Youth Development Division. The grants fund programs that serve youth ages 6-24 at risk of disengaging from school or work, and Pendleton was selected for the YDD Community Investment Grant for the Greater Eastern Oregon Region.

In 2019, Pendleton Parks and Recreation launched the After School program to provide activities and engagement for children in kindergarten through fifth-grade between the end of the school day and when parents were home from work. In direct response to community feedback, Pendleton’s After School Program partners with the Pendleton School District and the InterMountain ESD to offer consistent, affordable and education-based programming to elementary age students. During the school year, the program serves an average of 60 children a day with structured programming.

The Pendleton Parks and Recreation After School Program was designed to be a net zero program, meaning it brought in the same amount of money it took to operate. Parks and Recreation Director Liam Hughes said that financial goal has been hard to meet.

“I severely underestimated the resources that would be required to run this program,” Hughes said. “I based initial revenue and expense estimates on figures from previous places I had worked earlier in my career, but the reality we are seeing here in Pendleton in this post COVID era is very different.”

About 1 in 3 students in the After School Program receive financial assistance to participate, and holding fundraisers and writing grants to cover these financial assistance scholarships has been challenging. Hughes said another challenge has been finding more staff than originally expected.

“We have seen significantly higher turnover rates in part-time staff since the COVID-19 pandemic. It also seems that the kids are less well prepared to function in a group environment, and behavioral issues seem far higher than I remember them being in previous years,” Hughes said.  “Those two pieces significantly increase the cost of staffing the After School Program, both increasing the number of staff we need to schedule each day to offer the quality of program we want to provide.”

When staffing the After School Program began to impact the entire operation, Hughes realized he needed to hire a coordinator.

“There were multiple days it impacted our whole operation, having to pull administrative staff from the main office to make sure we didn’t have to cancel the program. I really appreciated our staff being willing to be versatile, and I think they all understood this is what the community needed from us in that moment,” Hughes said.

Pendleton Parks and Recreation hired a Recreation Coordinator earlier this year to oversee programing, including the After School Program.

This grant will solidify the After School Program for the next two years by funding the gap between the revenues received from participants and the total cost of running the program, including personnel, materials and supplies. It should also allow the department to provide a better program for the community and allow staff to work on initiatives that will be long-term sustainability to the program.

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