By Margaret Brown
INMED Partnerships for Children, a 100WomenStrong grant recipient in 2014 and 2015, takes a holistic approach when serving families in Loudoun County. Its recently launched after-school program is one element of that holistic approach, involving schools, parents and children. The free program was partly funded by a $10,000 grant from 100WomenStrong and currently serves 23 children with seven in queue.
According to Maria Vasquez-Alvarez, executive director of the Family and Youth Opportunity Center in Sterling, INMED works closely with elementary schools in Loudoun County Public School District’s Sterling area to help identify students based on both economic and academic need. Children, ages 6-12, are identified by school counselors and teachers and attend the program from 4-6 p.m. every week day.
“Most days, we have a full class of children. If we don’t see a student we are expecting and that child doesn’t have an after-school sporting event or other activity, we will check in with the family,” said Vasquez-Alvarez. “We work very closely with the families to maintain consistency in the program and to make sure that everything is okay at home.”
The program is structured to help the students keep up with homework assignments while providing targeted support in areas of need.
“We start with a snack and then homework,” she said. “The children either do their homework independently or with a high school mentor/tutor who has volunteered to help them one-on-one. It’s this one-on-one time that can create greater support and is an example of the value of working with parents and teachers who let us know about areas of need.
“After homework and tutoring time, there is a structured activity, such as games or cooking or science projects,” she continued. “We also read stories to the children.”
According to Vasquez-Alvarez, the program is designed to serve 45 students at a time, and there are four targeted outcomes INMED desires:
- Homework completion
- Grade improvement
- Self-esteem improvement
INMED recently celebrated its 30th anniversary and has been in Loudoun County for almost that entire time. The Family and Youth Opportunity Center in Sterling is the first time the nonprofit has had a standalone place for families and children to gather for support activities.
“Our main goal in all of our programs is to forge the links between parents and schools and make it a continuum for the kids,” said Linda Pfeiffer, PhD, president and CEO of INMED. “The Center in Sterling is something we have been planning and talking about for five years. Most existing services are concentrated in Leesburg, so there was a great need in the Sterling area.
“We had a great deal of support from partners and organizations such as 100WomenStrong to initiate the Center, which has allowed us to work even more closely with the community.
“While INMED is our original name, the ‘Partnerships for Children’ in our full name is more fitting as we have grown and changed over the years,” she continued. “It has been wonderful to have the community really embrace the center and our services. INMED has always worked toward creating wonderful things with great outcomes for families and children, and now we have a place for them to come and participate.”
For more information on INMED, please visit www.inmed.org