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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


Nearly seven million school-aged children lack

after-school care. Studies indicate that the frequency of violent crimes such

as robbery, sexual assault, and aggravated assault are approximately four

times greater during the out-of-school time when youth are not occupied

with extracurricular activities. The time that children spend participating in

constructive activities that encourage life and social skills is greatly needed

to counteract the potential for delinquency. This is especially true for students

in underprivileged urban school districts, particularly those who are African

American.These students have higher than average rates of school failure,

truancy, dropout, disciplinary infractions, and may develop poor relationships

with school personnel. When also considering how challenging the transition to

middle school is for all students, commonly resulting in academic difficulty and 

relational strains, the need for programming to promote skills for addressing the

multitude of barriers for success faced by students becomes paramount. Students

with limited social consciousness and insufficient coping skills often struggle􀀃

scholastically and demonstrate poor socioemotional skills.

To address these challenges, Norfolk Public Schools (NPS) and the City of

Norfolk's Recreation, Parks and Open Space (NRPOS) approached the Darden

College of Education at Old Dominion University (ODU) to develop, implement,

and support an in- and after-school program to enhance the achievement of

struggling, urban middle-school students. This collaborative program, CARE

(Character And Resilience Education) Now, was particularly relevant because

of 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. It

is 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 the

importance of working with a university, public school district, and municipal

park and recreation agency. However, such high-impact collaboration did

not come without challenges. Many lessons were learned that have led to

improvement of the program. For example, regular meetings should include all

stakeholders, collectively identifying outcomes are essential, from the beginning

financial obligations from each organization should be determined, and truly 

working together in a seamless model only strengthens the program.


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

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