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Finally, a program I can afford!

After-school and weekend activities to keep kids learning

enrichment programs, low cost after school activities, American Red Cross, Newburgh YMCA, Time4Learning, Poughkeepsie Public Library, WKVR-FM, DROP TV, Radio Rising, Children's Media Project

There are low-cost, and in some cases "no-cost" enrichment programs for kids in the Hudson Valley.  Here a few worth mentioning:

No-cost creativity
Children’s Media Project, a non-profit arts and education organization located in the City of Poughkeepsie, offers workshops, programs and projects that focus on the media arts. Two of their programs, DROP TV and Radio Uprising, will be offered as afterschool enrichment programs this fall. While their focus is on youth from the City of Poughkeepsie, participants from all over are welcome.

"The programs are grant supported and, if all goes well, will continue to be offered to youth in the community at no cost,” says Nicole Fenichel-Hewitt, executive director of Children’s Media Project. Enrollment is taken on a first-come, first-served basis; however, an interest in creative youth media is required.

“Our program is intensive media creation,” says Fenichel-Hewitt. “If they like to write, act, and work on the computer, it’s a great match.”

READ MORE: Check out our enrichment guide

DROP TV is a high school-aged video production program that includes preproduction, story boarding, actual production, film making technique, learning technical skills and equipment use. Children’s Media Project also offers a mixed middle school/high school-aged program called Radio Uprising which produces content for their weekly hour-long radio program which airs every Thursday at 4pm on WVKR 91.3 FM. “(Participants) pre-produce pieces in the afterschool program,” says Fenichel-Hewitt. “They center on a theme for the week’s show and start creating journalistic pieces, commentary. They pre-produce, edit, polish, add sound effects and music, and sequence the show.”

Hit the books (for free!)

“The library can be a place where education and recreation meet for children and teens,” says Beth Zambito, head of Youth Services for the Poughkeepsie Public Library District. “We offer early literacy programs for our smallest patrons in hopes of helping to raise readers, and we offer fun afterschool programs that promote literacy for school-age kids to help keep them learning when the school doors close.”

The Poughkeepsie Public Library District’s free enrichment programs include preschool storytime programs, plus story, craft, Lego and book clubs for elementary-aged students. They also have programs for middle and high school students.

At the library, family storytimes for younger children are popular because the whole family can participate. And they are scheduled on evenings and weekends in order to accommodate working parents’ schedules.

“We held an afterschool program this spring called R.E.A.D. (Read, Eat and Discuss) where elementary children could share their favorite books with other kids their age and get ideas about what to read next over snacks and conversation,” says Zambito. “Free-form programs and those that incorporate activities or competition like Minute to Win It or Silly Olympic Games, seem to appeal to our after-school crowd best.”

READ MORE: 6 things to consider when choosing an enrichment program

Learning for less

A tutor for sharpening your student’s academic skills may seem out of reach if your family is struggling with a tight budget. But not all tutors are expensive. If your child needs academic enrichment, take a look at a nontraditional tutoring alternative: online tutoring. 

Time4Learning teaches preschool to eighth grade lessons and is one of many online educational programs. Students can use the animated lessons, interactive activities and reinforcing worksheets to improve their academic skills after school.  Time4Learning is definitely more cost-effective than a tutor,” says Jennifer Eaton, a representative for the website. The online program is $19.95 a month for one student and $14.95 for each additional student, plus they have a two-week money back guarantee. “Time4Learning can be done any time, day or night, seven days a week from the convenience of your home. The flexibility of the program is very attractive to many families.”

For those parents that might be skeptical of using an online tutoring program, Eaton says they should give it a try to see the interactive activities that are designed to keep the students’ interest, allowing them to retain the material.

“Most students are used to books, workbooks, pencil and paper,” says Eaton. “An online program might be just what they need to not only understand a concept, but also ignite their curiosity and love of learning.”

Lots to do at a lower cost

Founded in 1858, the Greater Newburgh YMCA serves the families of eastern Orange and Dutchess Counties with affordable programming including after-school enrichment programs. “We have seventeen school sites and we provide before (school) care and after (school) care,” says Cari Hallion, associate executive director of the Greater Newburgh YMCA. She says the YMCA compares its rates and tries to charge less. And, because they cover such a large area and have an enrollment of 410 students, they’re able to do bulk-buying to keep costs down.

Additionally they do in-house training in CPR, share materials with the YMCA and transition programs from one site to another to save money. They accept students from kindergarten-age to when the parent feels the child no longer needs the program.

READ MORE: Positive organizations for special needs families

There’s also the benefit of help with academics. “After school, (students) have homework help. Our staff members know the kids really well and help them with the areas they may be having problems with,” says Hallion.  “There are also outdoor activities, weather permitting. We partner with a lot of organizations and have them come in to speak, like the Red Cross and local libraries. And we have our own team-building staff member who does anti-bullying, character development and interactive team games.”

Janine Boldrin is a freelance writer who lives in West Point with her family.