Editor’s note: This article is written by a current Wisconsin Youth Company parent. Her last name and her daughter’s name have been withheld for privacy.
By Bree, a Wisconsin Youth Company parent
I leaned on daycare. The daycare workers were incredibly supportive and knew our situation. So, when she was going into kindergarten, I knew I had to find that same support. Otherwise, our life just wasn’t going to be as sustainable as I needed it to be.
I was so fortunate that another family that was going to Stephens Elementary knew about Wisconsin Youth Company and its After School program.
It’s incredibly popular at Stephens and it fills up fast, especially if you want every possible day of care, which I really needed. I was so grateful they made the connection for me and I never looked back. It’s been such a fruitful program.
Things I love the most: The teachers are my co-parents.
I can tell them anything and know they’re going to be on my team with me raising my kiddo. They want nothing but the absolute best for the people in their care. And they have such respect for those kids and their families.
Things that I love the most: She can go right from her classroom to this program without leaving the school building.
That alone was some kind of miracle. Not only could I not pick her up or go meet the bus somewhere, I couldn’t transport her from school to a program.
That alone was so helpful — to know she was completely safe. Completely safe.
After school programs are the new cul-du-sac
My mom was a stay-at-home mom when I was a child, so I was really fortunate. I had that privilege of getting off the bus and somebody was always at my house. As soon as we were home, we’d get on the phone and call someone in the neighborhood, like, “I’m coming over!” I could take my bike and go to their house because it was right across the cul-de-sac.
You see “your people” in After School. It was so important for her social emotional growth and bolstered her belonging at school.
We live around too many busy streets. She can’t just take her bike to her friend’s house. This after school program really fills the gap for me that I wanted for her to have in her childhood.
It was already hard. It is hard.
It. Is. Hard.
I think my child would be so unhappy without the After School program filling that space.
We learned during the pandemic in a pretty loud way that I am an introvert and she is a capital “E” extrovert.
Can you imagine me saying “ok, kiddo, you’re going to have to be a latchkey kid. And you’re going to have to spend two to three hours alone just so I can get home from work and make sure we have food. Then, when I get home from work, I won’t be able to talk to you because I’m cooking and coming down from my day.” I can’t think of something meaner I could do to her.
Instead, she has this place that’s full of “her people” and a place she feels such a sense of belonging.
She’s grown up there from kindergarten to now fourth grade. She has a sense of leadership. If Ms. Monica needs a peer leader, she knows where to go.
Space to explore interests, make memories
It was so lovely and so fortuitous and I am so grateful to have had Wisconsin Youth Company. And I am still grateful. I’m going to really miss it when it’s gone.*
My daughter has always been a doodler and a drawer. She likes being an artist.
She likes being smart — she likes knowing things well and best.
She likes having the time and space to do what she wants to do. Being a creative person, I think she has really benefited from the open nature of the stations at After School (and the art supplies that I’m never going to have at my house).
These are things I don’t know that she would have in her core childhood memories if she didn’t have this program.
This After School program and the teachers really have been central to my village. There are not enough words to say how much they have meant.
*Wisconsin Youth Company isn’t going anywhere, but Bree’s daughter is growing up! Soon she will be in middle school!
Children grow quickly, and the more time they have to explore and play surrounded by their people, the better! If you are able to make a donation to support opportunities for families like Bree and her daughter, thank you!