Grants help YMCA expand summer offerings

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck YMCA is running a summer school extended care program for the first time thanks to grant funding.

Naugatuck YMCA Director of Operations Sherri Beck said the nonprofit received three $25,000 grants for summer enrichment programs.

The Y is using two of the grants to run a summer school extended care program out of Andrew Avenue Elementary School and Western Elementary School. The grants allowed 40 children total to attend the program for free. The program will run Monday through Friday, from 7 to 9 a.m. and 12 to 6 p.m., July 6 to July 30.

The extended care program is designed to wrap around Naugatuck Public Schools’ summer programs.

“This year, we know that the learning loss with COVID was immense and we wanted to make sure that we can offer a program to make it easier for parents with their youth in summer school,” Naugatuck YMCA CEO Mark LaFortune said.

Naugatuck schools offer three summer programs: an enrichment program for students in grades 1-12, a credit recovery program for high school students and a special education summer school. The programs run from 8 a.m. or 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. There are about 720 students in the three programs, according to a memo to the Board of Education.

Beck said the YMCA’s extended program can help parents who may not otherwise send their children to summer school.

“A lot of times parents are working. So they can’t get their children to the summer school program, so they choose not to send their children at all. But with the pandemic, we know that the children lost a lot of their educational time,” Beck said. “So we know that there are more children that need the summer school.”

The program includes different activities that will complement what children learn in the borough’s summer school programs, including STEM activities, Beck said.

The YMCA used the third $25,000 grant to give 60 children each from Naugatuck and Beacon Falls a free week of summer camp at the Y. The YMCA also received donations from the community to provide the free camp. The YMCA worked with school officials in Naugatuck and Region 16 to select the children.

“For us to be able to offer the opportunity for them to come to camp at no cost is immense,” LaFortune said. “Hopefully they can have a summer, especially after the year of our pandemic, to have fun and enjoy themselves.”

For information on the YMCA’s extended program or summer camps, call 203-729-9622 or visit naugatuckymca.org.