Throughout the school year, local children benefit from afterschool programs, mentoring, tutoring, in-school counseling and numerous other social service programs provided by Heart of Illinois United Way partner agencies. But as summer begins to warm up in the weeks ahead and school is let out for the summer, the numbers of area youth benefiting from these programs will increase as the agencies get ready to educate and entertain over the next few months.
Nurturing our children and youth can be done in many ways. The opportunities and challenges facing our children as they move from their formative years to adolescence and on to adulthood can be overwhelming, but communities across the country—including the Peoria area—are finding more and more ways of working together to create positive futures.
To become successful adults, youth need a sense of safety, belonging, purpose and self-worth. They also need to have their basic needs met while they develop healthy social habits, communication and citizenship skills. In order to thrive, children must acquire healthy behaviors and attitudes. Youth development programs that focus on building these competencies show that children who are in preschool, afterschool and summer programs are more likely to develop a greater sense of purpose and have stronger educational aspirations.
From scouting camps to arts and crafts classes, the summer programs offered by United Way agencies are a key component of youth development. These programs offer children a chance to create experiences that complement their studies in school. And, since there are a variety of structured activities offered in numerous neighborhoods, most are easily accessible. In addition, these programs show how many of our local agencies collaborate as they share resources such as transportation, facilities, health education, etc. The youth who participate in summer programs experience camaraderie through field trips, day camps, outdoor recreation, technology, community service and much more.
From our Success by 6 Early Childhood Initiative to Peoria Area Community and Educational Services (PACES) at District 150, the Heart of Illinois United Way supports a comprehensive list of youth services at our partner agencies—services that focus on prevention, intervention and education. Enrolling in summer youth programs is often just the first step a family or child makes in taking part in these programs that will nurture them from early childhood onward. IBI