YWCA Kids Place offers new all-day programs in Gahanna, Westerville

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
Students in the YWCA Kids Place at Mifflin Presbyterian Church include (back row, from left) Drew Tolliver, Mila Weitz, (front row) Alton Hartley, Nina Tolliver and Aloysius Herrick. In front of them is Kristy Hylton, site director of Jefferson Kids Place.

The YWCA Kids Place is complementing learning models in the Gahanna-Jefferson and Westerville school districts as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Nichelle Harris, managing director of education at the YWCA of Columbus, said the all-day YWCA Kids Place at Mifflin Presbyterian Church, 123 Granville St. in Gahanna, and at Westerville Community United Church of Christ, 770 County Line Road, are in their first year. 

YWCA Kids Place programs are offered in Gahanna and Westerville

“We have offered an after-school program in the past at Mifflin, but this is our first year to offer an all-day program there,” she said. 

Harris said the partnership with Westerville Community United Church of Christ began in the late summer.

She said the all-day program was designed specifically to complement the in-class education in the Gahanna-Jefferson and Westerville school districts.

For example, Harris said, in Westerville, when A-Week students are in the classroom, the YWCA’s all-day program is offered for the B-Week students who are learning remotely. 

“And in Gahanna, on days when the Hybrid Gold team is in the classroom, the Hybrid Blue team can attend the all-day program that is offered,” she said. “When students are remote learning, the (Kids Place) team creates an environment conducive to learning, helps keep students organized and offers support where necessary.”

Harris said the value of the YWCA Kids Place program can’t be overstated. 

“The YKP programs are serving the critical role of reinforcing economic infrastructure as working parents return to their jobs,” she said. “Parents rely on our programs to provide a safe place for their kids before and after school in elementary school buildings in Westerville and Gahanna.”

Harris said the YWCA stepped up to provide the all-day program that supplements in-class days, supporting students who are learning remotely when they aren’t in the classroom. 

“But beyond the safety and the school support, our programs are offering consistency and emotional support to our kids,” Harris said. “This year is unlike any other year our kids have ever experienced. Now more than ever, they need the caring adults, the supportive environment and the familiarity of the high-quality youth-development programs that the YWCA offers.”

Elizabeth Kittner, Mifflin Presbyterian site director, said she’s so impressed by what has been achieved with the students. 

“It's taken an insane amount of work from our site directors to put on such an amazing program, but we couldn't have done it without the support of our awesome partners at Mifflin, families or staff,” she said. “There are days that are really difficult, sure, but it's worth it. Everyone's giving 110% for the kids, and it shows. They're happy; they're learning; and they're safe.” 

Kittner said she doesn’t think people really understand what the YWCA Kids Place is about.

“It goes way beyond child care,” she said. “We're making these kids feel loved and cared for, we're making sure they get on their classes and do their homework, and we're feeding them breakfast and planning special activities for them. It's all about creating this nurturing environment that makes the kids feel safe.”

Kittner said it’s nice for the students to have one constant with everything that's going on, and Kids Place leaders are happy to be able to provide that for them.

Beyond offering its facilities, Mifflin Presbyterian also helps parents through a scholarship fund to help eligible families afford the program, said Kathi Bubb, liaison with Mifflin Presbyterian.

Harris said the YWCA has been providing high-quality before- and after-school programs to families in the Westerville and Gahanna communities for more than 30 years. 

“We are committed to our community partnerships, and despite the recent COVID-19 health pandemic, we have remained a constant in the lives of families and kids we serve, continuing to offer support through safe, affordable, high-quality youth programs run by skilled staff who are experts in the needs of school-age kids,” she said.

The YWCA’s programs use a comprehensive curriculum that includes choice-based learning, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), social-emotional development and physical fitness, according to its website at ywcacolumbus.org/what-we-do/educate-empower/kids-place/.

In step with the mission of YWCA Columbus, social action and advocacy also are promoted by participating in community-service projects that benefit nonprofit programs in the community.

The YWCA Kids Place programs in Gahanna and Westerville currently have spaces available, with registration on a first-come, first-served basis with rolling registration. Go to the YWCA website to learn more.

In Gahanna, the YWCA also offers Kids Place after-school programs at Blacklick, Chapelfield, High Point, Jefferson, Lincoln and Royal Manor elementary schools.  

In Westerville, the program is offered at Alcott, Annehurst, Fouse, Mark Twain, McVay, and Robert Frost elementary schools. 

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla