After-school programs are in full swing

Third grader Alana Nevin spends her free time drawing at the YMCA's after-school program. — Photo courtesy of YMCA

Around 3 o’clock on Monday afternoon, with the relief of first-day jitters behind them, dozens of kids filtered through the doors of the Boys & Girls Club in Edgartown. Once inside, the promise of an afternoon playing ping-pong and bumper pool or dance class and technology training awaited them.

For 10-year-old Isabella Vasiliadis, the after-school program at the Boys & Girls Club is a chance to regroup with friends. “I get to hang out with my friends if I don’t get to see them at school,” Isabella told The Times on Monday.

Isabella, who started fifth grade this week and has been a Boys & Girls Club after-school regular since kindergarten, said she loves to dance in the club gym and listen to the band One Direction. “My friends all get to put on music and have a dance party,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Each year, millions of school age children nationally, between the ages of five and 12, participate in after-school programs whose goals are to mix a healthy dose of education with extracurricular activities. But kids aren’t the only ones reaping the benefits.

This week as children across the Island return to school, working parents, single and otherwise, will rely on the safety net that after-school programs offer — dependable supervision until the work day ends.

Education is another major draw. “Every day we have a regular quiet time designated for homework,” said YMCA director of marketing and public relations Emily Galligan. “Through our various programs, we like to mix things up so nothing gets stale. The more variety you offer, the better chance you have to spark everyone’s interest.”

Here’s a look at what some of the after-school programs around the Island offer.

Martha’s Vineyard Boys & Girls Club

An Island institution since 1934, the Boys & Girls Club in Edgartown offers a daily drop-in program that is available for kids grades K-6. Membership is $20 for the school year and the club is open daily from the end of the school day to 6 pm.

“This is a place just for kids,” said program director Abby Leighton. In addition to the club’s regular after-school program, Ms. Leighton said she recently began Torch Club for fifth graders and above.

“It’s a way for the older kids to lead by example,” Ms. Leighton said. “It teaches the kids values and the importance of community services and is a way to get kids involved in the community and with their peers.”

Annually, the program costs more than $240,000 to run and hosts an average of 100 children in the facility on any given day, executive director Pete Lambos said.

“A basic day, once kids come through the doors, includes homework club where kids can earn points and incentives,” Mr. Lambos said. “From there, kids have the choice to be in the art studio or an all-ages gym for free time. They have options.”

The drop-in program covers unlimited attendance, Mr. Lambos explained. “So if a kid comes every day of the week for an entire school year, it ends up costing parents around 11 cents a day over the year.”

Earlier this year, Comcast donated $25,000 to the Boys & Girls Club. The Club used the funding to update their technology lab, which is now outfitted with eight new computers and accessories. They allocated some of the funds to programs that foster computer and digital literacy.

“I think it’s going to be a big hit,” Mr. Lambos said.

For those looking to try their hand and aim at something a little different, archery lessons will be offered by volunteers from the Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club.

“It’s something new that we’re trying out this year,” Mr. Lambos said. “We’ll see how it goes, but I think it’s going to be very popular.”

Bus transportation is available each day from the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, Oak Bluffs School, Tisbury School, and West Tisbury School. The club staff meets kids in grades K-2 at the Edgartown School and walks them to the Club.

Access to the after-school program is included in the club’s annual membership.

Club programs include basketball, flag football, cheerleading, and summer camp. The main room includes a pool table, ping-pong table, foosball, and air hockey tables. Each area has at least one adult staff member, Mr. Lambos said.

For more information about the after school programs at the Boys & Girls Club, call 508-627-3303 or visit their website


Starting this week the YMCA off Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road offers full- or part-time enrollment for its after-school program, which runs from 3 to 6 pm. Part-time enrollment costs $20 a day for Y members, $23 a day for non-members. Full-time enrollment costs $85 a week for members and $100 for non-members.

The program is offered to kids grades K-5 and is also meant to alleviate the stress working parents face by offering full- and half-day programs as well as transportation. “We try and do as much as we can for the convenience of parents,” Ms. Galligan said.

Otherwise known as SOAR (Social Skills, Outreach, Academic enrichment and Recreation), the Y’s program is licensed for 52 kids total and is designed to encourage developmentally appropriate activities and to inspire kids with the love of learning.

This year, as part of their math and science initiative, the Y will begin NASA education lessons in which childen can build space buggies.

“It’s an excellent way to present those subjects outside of a classroom setting,” said program coordinator Beth Shattuck. “And it’s fun. The kids all love it.” There will also be Lego challenges.

In addition to a state-required 35 minutes of physical activity, children are encouraged to eat healthy snacks. “Nutrition is a big part of our message here,” Ms. Galligan said. “We offer healthy options in the Y-cafe and try to promote a healthy and active lifestyle.”

The SOAR program also encourages community participation.

“We try and bring in people from around the community who have something cool to offer,” Ms. Galligan said. “We’ve had someone come in and do Capoeira with them, we’ve had Coco the clown do voice/movement therapy, and we do theme months, so we have activities to coincide with that.”

This year, the Y’s after-school program will work with Island Grown Schools (IGS) – a nonprofit organization that works to grow sustainable agriculture and promote local food advocacy and education. IGS will be introducing a “harvest of the month,” as part of the Y’s after-school program, to help encourage the use of seasonal and locally available foods.

“We are thrilled to get to partner with the Y as we work together to help local children and their families make healthy lifestyle choices,” said IGS director Noli Taylor.

One for Y, Y for all

The “Y For All Financial Assistance Program,” awards a percentage of program and membership fees to qualified applicants. Determined by a sliding fee scale based on total household income and the number of household members, more than 300 of the current members participate in the Y’s financial assistance program, Ms. Galligan said.

Club Fus!on

Piloted at the end of last year, the YMCA aims to bridge the after-school hours gap for middle school kids in grades 6-8 with Fus!on. “We wanted to give kids some respect and a sense of autonomy,” Ms. Galligan said. Based on an honor-system, kids will sign in and have free time as well as participate in organized activities. “It’s not very structured, the kids are free to do what they choose.”

Ms. Galligan said an average of 10-15 teens participate in the Fus!ion program each day. “It’s nice feeder program to our teen center and it’s free to members,” Ms. Galligan said. The cost for non-members is $60 for a seven-week session. “We’re trying to keep it as free as possible,” Ms. Galligan said.

Transportation from the Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, Tisbury, West Tisbury and Charter schools is furnished by the MVYPS bus system.

For more information about the after-school program or Club Fus!ion, contact Beth Shattuck at 508-696-7171, ext. 117, or visit

The Martha’s Vineyard Family Center

Currently located across the street from the MV Regional High School on Edgartown Vineyard Haven Road, The Martha’s Vineyard Family Center offers free classes, play groups, and educational support to Island families with children eight and under.

In the process of relocating to the Stephen Carey Luce House on North William Street in Vineyard Haven, the center provides education and support to parents and children ranging from prenatal and pre-adoptive ages through eight years old.

There is no after-school program at the center, but this is a place to which parents may bring their children for a variety of services including playgroups, discussion groups, parenting classes, and family activities.

“It’s fairly unstructured,” said director of early childhood programs Judy Thomas. “This is a family-based program, and we provide support and connect families and parents to one another.”

The MV Family Center also provides support to parents of young children through individual consultation and group collaborations.

The program is funded through grants from the Massachusetts Children’s Trust Fund and the Department of Early Education and Care.

For more information about the MV Family Center, call 508-693-7900, ext. 288, or email Cherish Harris at

The cost of childcare

A 2012 report by Child Care Aware of America called “Parents and the High Cost of childcare,” found the average annual cost of full-time childcare for an infant in a daycare center can be as high as $15,000 in Massachusetts. While costs vary depending on age and geography, the study concluded that a year of full-time childcare for “school age kids” costs an average of $2,736 in California, compared to $5,633 in Massachusetts.

In 2011, the average annual cost of full-time childcare for a four-year-old cost nearly $11,700 in Massachusetts.

Information for the study was collected through a survey that asked for the average costs charged for childcare for infants, four-year-old children, and school age children in childcare centers and in family childcare homes in every state.

Child Care Aware works with state and local childcare resource and referral agencies, details the economic challenges that working American families face when it comes to paying for childcare, and recommends that states and the federal government improve the affordability for working families. “It is essential that the federal and state governments help families access and afford quality childcare so that children’s safety and healthy development are not jeopardized,” the study concluded.