New After-School Program Has One Student, and is Looking for 29 More

University Settlement 4Jessica Bell Yingling Chen and Gerard Gomez, a program leader at University Settlement.

The Houston Street Center of University Settlement, which has provided community services to the East Village and Lower East Side since 1886, has started a new after-school program for high school students – an extension of the center’s three-year-old STRIDE program for middle schoolers.

“There already isn’t that much option out there for middle schoolers after school, and it’s even worse for high school students,” said Susan Haskell, director of the Houston Street Center.

Compared to the recreation-focused middle school program, the high school offshoot is more academically oriented: from 3:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m., a participant’s time is divided between tutoring or homework help as well as activities like swimming, film club and BookUp NYC – a book club organized by the National Book Foundation.

“High school kids are more mature and always want to do something,” Gerard Gomez, a STRIDE leader, said. “It’s better to keep them busy doing work that can be fun.”

On Mondays, students will work on career-development skills like interviewing for jobs and writing cover letters and resumes. Wednesdays and Fridays are reserved for community service such as feeding residents of the University Settlement Senior Center.

The program has room for about 30 students, with scholarship opportunities available for families that qualify (the cost of attendance is almost $800); however, the only person currently enrolled is Yingling Chen, 14, an East Village resident and incoming student at Baruch College Campus High School.

That might be because, according to Ms. Haskell, her parents “significantly inspired” the program, which is still in recruitment phase.

“The people are really nice and it makes school easier, because I can work out problems I have here,” said Ms. Chen, who has been attending STRIDE since the sixth grade.

Ms. Haskell said, “Almost all of the kids we serve need at least a summer job. We’re going to make them ready and prepare them for something like that.”