Bank of America Announces Major 3 Year Gift to Establish After-School Program

City Announces New After-School Program Bankrolled by Bank of America
By Brian Boyd

NEW BEDFORD — City students will have new opportunities for after-school learning and activities with financial support from the nation’s largest bank.
Bank of America has committed $190,000 a year over three years to pay for after-school tutoring, educational activities, intramural sports and recreation at the city’s three middle schools and four largest elementary schools. The initiative, called Excel New Bedford, will start Tuesday, city officials said.
“It’s something we are going to be extremely proud about,” Mayor Scott W. Lang said Friday during a news conference at the Normandin Middle School.
The funds will pay for staffing and materials to make the new activities possible. While the schedule is being finalized, the program is expected to create activities four afternoons a week and three evenings a week, depending on demand.
The four elementary schools participating are Carney Academy and the Gomes, Hayden-McFadden and Pulaski schools. However, students who attend other schools can sign up for activities, said Stephanie Poyant, a spokeswoman for Lang.
At Normandin, Lang was joined by Gov. Deval Patrick, Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank and Robert Gallery, the Massachusetts president of Bank of America.
“Our investment in this program symbolizes not only our shared commitment to improving opportunities for our youth but also our dedication to this region,” Gallery said.
Frank said education is key to preparing young people for a future in the modern, knowledge-driven economy.
“We are going to need a work force that is skilled, that can take advantage of technology and that begins with education at the elementary and middle school levels,” he said.
Asked about long-term funding of the program, Frank, who is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said he intends to talk to a couple of other major banks. He said he also plans to fight for more federal economic recovery money, including funds for communities.
“Excel New Bedford is about creating opportunities that are valuable, enriching, contributing, exciting, motivating for young people after the traditional school day,” Patrick said.
Dr. John Fletcher, vice chairman of the city’s School Committee, said the school system would not be able to afford such programs under current tight budgets without outside assistance.
“Today is a great day for the students of New Bedford,” Fletcher said.
The new initiative would dovetail with existing programs and grants, he added after the news conference.
The evening programming at each of the participating schools would engage both students and their families in educational and community-related activities. The city plans to arrange for free, healthy meals to be offered to the participants, according to city officials.
Through Excel New Bedford, Normandin will extend computer lab hours, create a journalism class and start a newspaper, Principal Dr. Jeanne Bonneau said after the event.
The school could also expand existing community-service programs, which would involve seventh- and eighth-graders working with younger children, Bonneau said.
“It will foster that sense of community within themselves,” she said.
Normandin eighth-graders said the after-school programs would help prepare students for high school, give them a chance to socialize with each other, and keep them out of trouble.
“It will help people whose parents are not home,” said Tiffany Powers, 13. “It will keep them off the streets.”
The students were not bothered by the prospect of staying longer at school.
“Why can’t school be fun?” asked Karima Sady, 13.
Parents interested in learning more about the program can call the School Department at (508) 997-4511, Ext. 3202.
January 09, 2010
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