NLI Afterschool Programs Bring Families Together
On an unusually warm autumn evening in Cleveland's Old Brooklyn neighborhood, Caylin Wilson, 31, and his 9-year-old son Nathanael enter Charles Mooney K-8 School. They walk past the gymnasium and climb the stairs to Room 305, where Nathanael joins several other young children for a class that combines cooking with arts and crafts.
With his son in the care of two experienced teachers, the elder Wilson returns to the first floor and steps into the gym, ready to rekindle some of his own youthful energy in a spirited game of full-court basketball.
It's a routine that Wilson has been following for many years. He started attending the afterschool program at Charles Mooney ten years ago, when he decided to walk across the street from his house to find out why there were so many cars in the school parking lot.
Though Mooney's gym does not host the only basketball game in town, Wilson mentions several factors that keep him coming back: "It's free. It's in the neighborhood. There's no fighting or arguing. It's a good system."
Even more important, he can bring his son with him. Wilson says, "I come so my son can explore different activities. He goes to art class. He loves it. I come for him."
Joining Wilson on the basketball court is 18-year-old Mike Blevins, whose mother, Sherry, and sister Jutaun have dropped him off at the gym on their way upstairs to aerobics class.
For the Blevins family, the afterschool program at Mooney is definitely a family affair. "We usually come as a group," says Sherry Blevins. The group often includes not only her children but also several nieces and nephews.
"I tell the kids that it's good for them," says Blevins. "It's good for me, too."
Blevins appreciates the fact that all activities are offered free of charge. "All of us are not blessed with a silver spoon," she notes. "They're closing the Y's down, so we're lucky to have this."
Down the hall from the aerobics class, young teens chat quietly as they stare at the monitors in the Computer Lab. Off to one side, an instructor gives individual attention to an adult woman who is making her first visit to the lab.
Among the young people at the computers is 13-year-old Hadie Dimanti. Hadie learned about the program from her cousin Shane Summers, who sits across the room from her. In turn, Hadie has told three friends about the program.
Although she has a computer at home, Hadie prefers the social aspect of the Computer Lab at Mooney. "I get to be with people I like," she says.
One floor above, Hadie's 11-year-old sister Elizabeth is decorating cookies in the the cooking class. "It's pretty fun," she says. "I have a good time."
As the eight o'clock hour nears, Caylin Wilson—still perspiring from his basketball workout—comes upstairs to pick up Nathanael. They say their good-byes to the teachers and children. And father and son walk out into the warm November night together.