As I have gone around the County discussing the issues in each Community, I've been told over and over again that the opportunities for our youth are very uneven. We can be proud of an excellent School District. But once class is out, what are the options for children, whether for tutoring, for counseling, or for recreation. According to the 2018 ALICE Report, almost half (45%) of households in our County are living paycheck to paycheck. We must find a way to lift these families, and creating afterschool opportunities would be a great start.
There are Federal funds (Title 1) that can be used to create afterschool programs. Most of these would be administered and housed at our Schools. But this is a perfect time to look at developing some new programs. We have people who have lost jobs and in need of new opportunities. And with the expansion of internet access throughout the County, more programs along the STEM or STEAM curriculum could be offered for afterschool experiences.
Speaking of the Arts, I would love to see more opportunities available for youth across the County. I am exploring these possibilities alongside a group that is working to expand these experiences and events.
In addition, the 21st Century Community Learning Center provides direct support grants for 3-5 years. These afterschool programs can be provided thru Community-based organizations, or public or private organizations, in addition to Schools.
Alongside afterschool programs that could offer tutoring, mentoring and educational experiences, we need to find safe, varied recreational opportunities for youth. The County recently purchased Eagle Springs Golf Course in DeFuniak Springs. I would like to explore how this purchase could offer some new experiences and opportunities for local youth.
Other ideas and requests included Skate Rinks or Centers and Movie Theaters (wouldn't a Drive-In Theater be fun!). If entrepreneurs can be attracted to a growing Community, hopefully they can offer these kinds of facilities.