The Beyond the Bell program was started in 2014 and is for students ages 12 and under. The after-school program aims to help ensure the safety of children, assist working families and inspire learning and growth.
We asked Heather B. Benoit, program coordinator and director of the Beyond the Bell program, to answer some questions about the nonprofit’s work and needs. Her edited answers follow.
1. What specific services do you provide?
Beyond the Bell is an enrichment program that is held at the Rev. Lloyd Wallace Center in Raceland. The program was established by Program Director Heather Benoit in the fall of 2014. The program is currently held Monday-Thursday from 3-5 p.m. During out of school hours, the program is held from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The ages that are welcomed for the program are 5-12. During Beyond the Bell, youth members work on homework and school assignments and also engage in enrichment activities. After homework and school assignments are complete, children engage in free choice activities. Some of the activities offered are recreational activities, engaging in educational games, art activities and many more. The center is equipped with technological resources that our youth members are allowed to use daily, such as computers, laptops, and access to a printer.
We have approximately 70 youth members that have enrolled in our program in the past three years. We have a weekly average of 32 youth members who attend daily. The majority of our youth members live in the Alidore community in Raceland.
2. Tell us a short story that illustrates how your services have helped others.
Each year we hold an event that is a special and heartwarming that is a part of Beyond the Bell. Lights On AfterSchool is a day to raise awareness of the impact of after-school programs. In 2000, the National AfterSchool Alliance created this event to be celebrated nationwide. Each year, the alliance chooses a day at the end of October to celebrate this event. The goal of the event each year is to call attention to the importance of after-school programs. This year, the Wallace Community Center's youth members left their mark at the center for them to look back on as they grow into responsible citizens to serve our community. Each youth member placed their hand print on the center's wall for all to see. A popcorn bar was also implemented by the center staff for the youth members to enjoy as part of their celebration.
During our event this year, our youth members also wrote reasons why they enjoyed being a part of Beyond the Bell. Dontarius Smith, 13- year-old youth member, wrote, “I like coming here because I like the way they treat us and show us love, I love ya’ll.” Donatrius has been a part of Beyond the Bell since we began in 2014. He attends Raceland Middle School and recently made faculty list this past nine weeks. Before starting the Beyond the Bell, Dontarius had failing grades and struggled in school. He has been able to grow academically in the past three years.
3. What data can you cite that would give people an idea of the extent your services are needed in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes?
The National Alliance recently did an analysis of 68 after-school programs and results proved that students participating in after-school programs went to school more, behaved better, received better grades, showed greater interest in school and learned new skills out of the classroom. When our youth members begin the school year, they are excited and ready to learn. When the youth members receive weekly progress reports and test grades, our staff members review their materials and create strategic plans to help them in areas of improvement. In the past three years, all of our youth members except two male members have passed their grade and moved on to the next grade level. We have a 95 percent passing rate. When viewing the youth members’ report cards at the end of the school year, we look at their overall grades compared to their initial first nine week’s grade. Eighty-eight percent of the youth members in the school year of 2015-16 improved their overall average by the end of the school year, 10 percent stayed the same and 2 percent declined.
4. How many people do you serve in an average month? Are there other numbers that you can provide that would give readers an idea of how many people your services reach?
We have an average of 50 active youth members that attend consecutively throughout the month. Our weekly average is 32 youth members for each day.
5. How can someone apply?
To apply for the program, a parent or guardian must come in to the Wallace Community Center and fill out student information. A child must have this form completed with all the required information before beginning the program.
6. What is your annual budget? Where does the money come from? What is your biggest fundraiser? How can people donate? How many paid workers do you have on staff? How many volunteers?
Beyond the Bell is funded through the Lafourche Parish government and also through nonprofit grants and organizations. Our program accepts donations such as materials to help enhance our program and to keep meeting the needs of our youth members. If a person is interested in donating, they can contact the director. The Wallace Community Center has an annual budget of approximately $8,000 to use on snacks, food and other miscellaneous materials to enhance our program and provide for our youth members and community. We have four paid workers on our staff. Our staff consists of: a program director, two youth development specialist interns and a building janitor. We have had approximately 12 active volunteers in the past three years. We have volunteers stop in sporadically. In the past year we have only had four active volunteers.
7. What is your organization's greatest need?
Our greatest need is having involvement from the community. We have built partnerships throughout the years that visit us and serve as a face to our program and help better our program each and every day. These partnerships give our youth members enriching experiences and always help create relationships outside of the community they live in. Some of our partnerships are Wetlands Center of Thibodaux, LSU AgCenter of Raceland and Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office.
8. Does your group need volunteers? What specific activities are available for volunteers?
Beyond the Bell is an after-school program that is always looking for devoted volunteers to serve as tutors/mentors to the youth in central Lafourche Parish. Volunteers can receive service hours for their organizations that have service requirements. Volunteers serve as a homework helper or activity assistant. They are there to offer support, friendship, and a constructive example to individual students.
9. Does your group need donations of money, services or goods? What are those needs and how can people donate?
Donations are always welcomed to help enhance our program’s materials and attributes. Yearly, we aim to update our recreational equipment such as balls, jump ropes, board games, etc. Also, for holidays (Christmas, Valentine's, and Easter) donations are welcomed to help purchase a gift for each youth member. If anyone is interested in donating, they can contact me through email or phone.
10. What is the greatest reward volunteers receive in exchange for their time?
As a devoted volunteer, you will build everlasting relationships with parents and children of the community. By volunteering, you can make a difference in the lives of youth in our area.
11. Is there anything we haven't asked that you would like people to know about your nonprofit, the services you provide and the people who receive those services?
Beyond the Bell also has a summer enrichment program that we call “Camp Wallace” that is held while the children are out of school. Camp Wallace runs Monday-Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and lunch and a snack are provided by Second Harvest Food Bank. On Thursdays, we do order-out days that consist of pizza, finger foods and other home cooked meals. During Camp Wallace, children engage in themed activities each week and also experience educational and life-enhancing events.
The Wallace Community Center is at 3603 La. 308. Raceland. For information about Beyond the Bell, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.lafourchebtb.org.