Affordable after-school options for families

With kids heading back to the classroom, many families will rely on after-school childcare.
Published: Aug. 26, 2022 at 10:48 AM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - With kids heading back to the classroom, many families will rely on after-school childcare.

“This is a home away from home at times,” said Marquita Saez, a counselor at Springfield Boys and Girls Club.

Saez and her daughter, Alani, are fixtures at the Springfield Boys and Girls Club.

“Some of them to look up to me and have told me, ‘You’re like a mother figure to me,’ and you know, there’s times when they’ll come talk to me where they can’t do that at home,” Saez added.

When Alani is here after school or on teen nights, Saez knows she’ll be safe.

“I know the people around will definitely protect her of anything, so that’s a good relief for me too,” Saez explained.

“It also helps keep kids stay off the streets and out of gang activity and stuff like that, a safe place for kids to be,” said Alani Torres

The Boys and Girls Club on Carew Street is open after school until 9 p.m. That’s something executive director Vincent Borello told Western Mass News is so important for the families they serve.

“Well for the parents, some of them are working two, even three jobs. They need to know that there’s a positive place, a safe place for the kids to go after school,” Borello said.

The club serves 2,400 kids in the after-school program, which costs families just 40 dollars a year.

“In our 132-year history, we’ve never turned a child away, so any child that wants to come to the Boys and Girls Club is always welcome,” Borello explained.

Springfield Parks and Recreation also offers after-school programs at several elementary schools in the city, free of charge, from 3:30 p.m. to 6pm.

“A lot of the children have working parents, so they’d be home alone on a video game or some kind of electronic device, so it’s good for them, particularly after the pandemic, to have the camaraderie of their fellow students as well as the staff,” said Paula Thayer, retired assistant director of recreation Department of Parks, Buildings, and Recreation Management for the City of Springfield.

Thayer retired just days after our interview after 28 years with the department.

“Between evening gym and both the after-school and the summer programs, I think we’ve touched a great number of children. I wouldn’t even dare estimate how many,” Thayer added.

Back at the Boys and Girls Club, kids are enjoying the final few days of summer in the game room before programming expands during the school year.

“Swim, cooking classes, computer labs. Obviously, we have two gymnasiums and sports is very popular here,” Borello said.

Third grader Emeri Whyte enjoys playing in the gym, but prefers the arts.

“Something that inspired me was music my music teacher. He’s a great music teacher and we get to do a lot of things. We get to do drums, pianos, and guitars,” Whyte said.

Xavien Martinez is entering the third grade as well and knows just how valuable after school care is.

“At home, you could barely do stuff at home and go out because it’s too expensive and this place is nice because you can get out of the house and actually do something,” Martinez said.