The After School Spot gets local youths involved in the community 

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Active since April of 2015, The After School Spot is dedicated to giving middle and high school students positive options outside the classroom. Cheree Harris, the nonprofit’s founder, explained that she primarily recruits northeast Oklahoma City youths through word-of-mouth from coalition members.

“The mission is to provide an environment for teens that is fun, safe, resourceful, educational and will also teach leadership and fellowship through community service,” she said.

Harris has a teenage daughter and understands how she has trouble finding things to do, which inspired Harris to do something good for other youths in the city.

“I’m very passionate about the community, and specifically northeast Oklahoma City, because I feel like that’s a community that is greatly underserved,” she said.

Harris explained that her perspective is based on observations and experiences with local students.

“The poverty rate is very high over there,” she said. “There are kids in middle school and high school who are responsible for raising their younger siblings or being raised by grandparents or another family member.”

Harris said the area used to have a skating rink and bowling alley and though The Bryant Center has a strong presence, it tends to cater to younger kids and is closed on weekends. The After School Spot’s targeted ZIP codes live 23.6 percent to 40.6 percent below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

As a Leadership Oklahoma graduate, Harris recruited a board member from that organization for assistance. She helps the student-led coalition plan annual events and collaborate with Oklahoma City-County Health Department for teen pregnancy prevention and Weokie Credit Union for financial literacy education.

The grassroots ethos of The After School Spot is intentional. Harris reached out to kids at schools such as Northeast Academy for Health Sciences and Engineering Enterprise, Frederick A. Douglass High School and Star Spencer High School.

“[We asked them,] ‘What is it you need in your community that we can help you bring?’ They were ecstatic,” she said.

Harris said students were grateful someone asked what they needed instead of assuming. The zeal youth coalition students have shown has paid off. Harris credits them for the success of their Halloween Smash Bash and Stomp Show.

Many schools participated in Smash Bash, Harris said, and the collaborative spirit was upheld when students voted to have the event again Oct. 29.

“We started having kids show up for our practices,” she said. “We’ve had kids reach out and say, ‘Hey, do you have any community service opportunities available?’”

A trunk party was recently held for seven coalition members who graduated from high school. Four members remain in the coalition, but that doesn’t make it any less effective. The coalition’s purpose for The After School Spot is to gain a better understanding of community needs.

Harris said coalition members are involved and proactive and specifically focused on sex education.

Three of the four remaining students are involved in an adolescent health council through a partnership with the Oklahoma County Teen Pregnancy Prevention program and Boys & Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County.

An eight-week financial literacy program at Boys & Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County starts Aug. 26 and is open to interested students.

Visit afterschoolspotokc.com or The After School Spot’s Facebook page to enroll.  

Print headline: Student union, The After School Spot gives youths a voice and helps them fuel change.

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