Article9 BA-Childfirst100

Parents, children, and representatives from a Baltimore enrichment program gathered May 21 at Morgan State University to celebrate their achievements. They also called on Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for more funds.

“People saw and celebrated what happens with young people when you invest in them,” Child First Authority’s Executive Director Carol Reckling said about the event. “Our students were playing instruments, they were dancing, they did a play, they did jump rope, Japanese. We had a student who is now in college who had been in our program when he was in middle school.”

Child First offers afterschool and in-school services. The group meets for about two hours each day after school. Children have opportunities to get help with homework, take part in educational activities, and even get a free meal. They also go on cultural and educational field trips.

Right now, the program is in 10 Baltimore city schools but would like to be in more. The group’s executive director says that members of the city council committed themselves to finding $4 million to increase services to city schools, but Rawlings-Blake hasn’t brought that plan to fruition.

“The mayor is one who is not hearing. She made a promise that she would double funding for afterschool programs and she has not lived up to that promise,” Reckling said. “We actually came about at a time not unlike what’s happening now when people were saying we need more opportunities for youth.”

The group has been around since 1994. Reckling said parents of children who participate in the program love it, but wish more children had access.

Takira Robinson is a parent investment coordinator at Robert W. Coleman Elementary School. She has had the position for about a year, but started as a parent volunteer. Her son, who is in kindergarten, takes part in the program. Robinson said that the academic hour they offer each day helps give participants a leg up on classroom learning.

“It makes it easier for the kids to ask questions, get an understanding,” she said. “When they go back to regular school it’s easier for them to learn.”

At Robert W. Coleman, they serve over 100 students.

“If we could get 10 schools to serve 100 more kids, that’s a thousand who would have something productive to do after school,” she said.

It’s not just education, either. Robinson said that they plan lots of fun things for children and their families to take part in together.

“The thing that the children really like is when we get together and do something rewarding for them. I don’t know if it’s the extra effort or they like to get free things,” she said.