History of kidsLINK Afterschool

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Greater Gallatin United Way (GGUW) has provided afterschool programming for over 20-years.  In 1997, GGUW provided an $8,000 "venture grant".  A priority need for the Three Forks community was to keep children safe, while parents finished their work days.  The community came together to be part of the solution.  Rather than investing these funds into transporting children to another location, paying rent, or investing in a new building, a more practical and economically viable solution was established; to partner with the school district and utilize existing assets to house the program.  This partnership model leveraged the city as the fiscal agent, the school district as the administrative oversight, and GGUW as the funding source.  The result...  the first afterschool program supporting working families and local businesses was established in Three Forks, Montana.

By 2000, other rural school districts were asking for afterschool programs.  GGUW submitted their first grant proposal to Mountain Sky Guest Ranch Foundation.  The awarded funds helped to expand afterschool programs to other rural communities, including Monforton, W. Yellowstone, Manhattan, Gardiner, Big Sky, Belgrade and Bozeman.

Today, kidsLINK Afterschool has over 3,400 children enrolled, operates in 29 school-based/linked locations across 4 counties, and serves over 1,600 children every day.  kidsLINK Afterschool is more than a safe place; it provides rich opportunities for learning, personal growth, and building relationships.  Parents, children, schools and businesses depend on kidsLINK Afterschool.

The success of this program is the result of strong partnerships, effective collaboration and utilizing existing community resources to fulfill an important community need.  As the lead agency, GGUW coordinates the work of schools and school districts, government agencies, private funders, programs and others involved to deliver a successful, sustainable, replicable, accessible afterschool model.  GGUW is responsible for the administration, funding, evaluation, and reporting, while partner schools and school districts hire and supervise the staff and generously donate facilities.  Area nonprofit organizations, such as Gallatin County 4-H, community libraries, MSU and others offer support through curriculum implementation, staff development, tutoring/homework support, parent liaison referrals, enrichment activities, and research.

Programs are available for all children, regardless of their ability to pay. GGUW awards nearly $300,000 annually in scholarships to families who might not have another option, but for their children to be alone afterschool.  Studies show that children without access to afterschool programming are more likely to engage in high risk behaviors and spending time with caring adults increases self-confidence and decreases engagement in high risk behaviors.  In addition, kidsLINK Afterschool provides homework and tutoring support, which results in increased academic achievement, as well as more quality family time during the evening.  Finally, afterschool programming provides a bridge between out-of-school experiences and in-school learning; increasing interest in education and school itself.

The annual operating cost for the program is over $1 million annually.  Without the in-kind donation of school space and school assets, the cost would easily double.  Revenues to help support the program are generated from three entities in almost equal amounts - - 26 grant awards, generous donations and parent fees.

As our communities grow, so do the demands on afterschool programming.  kidsLINK Afterschool is an essential program for children, families and employers.  Our goal is to ensure that ALL our kids are safe and engaged every day.

For more information, contact kidsLINK Afterschool Program at 406.587.2194 or kidslink@greatergallatinunitedway.org