Amy Dennis, a leader of the YMCA’s after-school program, is leaving for room 36 at OB Whaley Elementary School in East San Jose. Today her students, aged kindergarten through third grade, are doing a science project.
Before the meeting ends, an announcement is made—an extensive budget deficit could lead to enormous layoffs that would force the YMCA to discontinue its after-school programs.
“What? Excuse me? Discontinue?” asked Dennis. “This community relies on and depends on after-school programs.”
The YMCA’s ability to support after-school programs is vanishing. Over the past few years, the East Valley YMCA has lost more than $1 million. That money would have helped facilitate many after school programs. Parents, teachers, students and employees say they have fought very hard to maintain the after-school programs that the students have grown to love and appreciate. YMCA programs have raised grades and test scores, and have helped boost their overall success rates. As budgets tighten and the programs have decreased in size, admissions are getting tougher.
As the world economy continues to struggle, California remains at the forefront of the crisis. With a $20 billion dollar deficit that is growing by the hour, the YMCA and other projects have had to drastically reduce the number of students they help. In 2005 the YMCA here welcomed nearly 10,000 youth into its summer programs. 32-year-old Michelle Lennox, director of youth and family services at the East Valley YMCA, says the “Y,” as it is commonly known serves 5,000 youth per year.
“Budget cuts have had a negative impact on our branch,” Lennox says. In complying with licensing and grant requirements, if the Y cannot financially sustain an entire program, they must get rid of it.”
Lennox says over the last three years the East Valley YMCA has lost more than $250,000. But there are other factors besides direct grants and state support.
“Membership is the economic engine of the Y that helps pay for the outreach and grant funded programs we do in the community,” said Eduardo Barrantes, 56, vice president and chief financial officer for the Silicon Valley YMCA. ”If membership is down the programs start to shrink due to the lack of funds to financially sustain them.”
While membership is down, the number of students looking to take part in the programs is on the rise.
Admission into the programs is tough. Students are now asked to provide letters of recommendation, along with other criteria. It used to be that having a brother or sister in the program guaranteed a spot to a sibling, but each student is reviewed on a case-to-case basis.
“I think it’s ridiculous, that when the government can’t control spending, the key to the solution is to cut student programs,” said Debbie Charatte.
Since word of more program cuts first circulated last year, members of the community have organized several fundraisers in partnership with the YMCA. Lennox says the “campaign is specifically important to after school because it cost more money to run the programs then what the state awards the schools.”
Over the last two years, East Valley has raised more than $615,000 to help sustain and stabilize its after-school programs.