Development and Implementation of CARE Now: A University, Municipal Recreation Department, and Public School Collaborative Model


  • Eddie Hill
  • Tammi Milliken
  • Jennifer Goff
  • Debbie Clark
  • Ryan J. Gagnon


Academic failure, after school, character, parks and recreation, partnerships, resiliency, socio-emotional success, youth development


Nearly seven million school-aged children lackafter-school care. Studies indicate that the frequency of violent crimes suchas robbery, sexual assault, and aggravated assault are approximately fourtimes greater during the out-of-school time when youth are not occupiedwith extracurricular activities. The time that children spend participating inconstructive activities that encourage life and social skills is greatly neededto counteract the potential for delinquency. This is especially true for studentsin underprivileged urban school districts, particularly those who are AfricanAmerican.These students have higher than average rates of school failure,truancy, dropout, disciplinary infractions, and may develop poor relationshipswith school personnel. When also considering how challenging the transition tomiddle school is for all students, commonly resulting in academic difficulty and relational strains, the need for programming to promote skills for addressing themultitude of barriers for success faced by students becomes paramount. Studentswith limited social consciousness and insufficient coping skills often struggleô€€ƒscholastically and demonstrate poor socioemotional skills.To address these challenges, Norfolk Public Schools (NPS) and the City ofNorfolk's Recreation, Parks and Open Space (NRPOS) approached the DardenCollege of Education at Old Dominion University (ODU) to develop, implement,and support an in- and after-school program to enhance the achievement ofstruggling, urban middle-school students. This collaborative program, CARE(Character And Resilience Education) Now, was particularly relevant becauseof Norfolk's high rate of poverty, which is most recently reported to be at 18.2%overall with some parts of the city as high as 44% (City Data, 2014).With continued budget cuts, partnerships are in higher need than ever. Itis the social and collective responsibility of service agencies, public schools,and university systems to address the challenges of today's youth in deliberate,efficacious ways that are cost effective and sustainable. This particular example of the CARE Now program demonstrated a successful model, but showed theimportance of working with a university, public school district, and municipalpark and recreation agency. However, such high-impact collaboration didnot come without challenges. Many lessons were learned that have led toimprovement of the program. For example, regular meetings should include allstakeholders, collectively identifying outcomes are essential, from the beginningfinancial obligations from each organization should be determined, and truly working together in a seamless model only strengthens the program.





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