Providence is First Site for “Learning in Communities” A New National Initiative

May 08, 2003

For Immediate Release:
City of Providence – David N. Cicilline, Mayor
Contact: Karen Southern, Press Secretary – (401) 421-2489
The Wallace Foundation
Contact: Rebecca Edwards (212) 251-9783


Providence is First Site for “Learning in Communities” A New National Initiative

Providence, RI, May 8, 2003: Joined by business, education, community and youth leaders, Mayor David N. Cicilline today announced that the City of Providence has been chosen by The Wallace Foundation for a $335,000 planning grant for their new national initiative called Learning in Communities. The goal is to build a sustainable, coordinated system of high quality out-of-school time activities for school-age children and youth.

Mayor Cicilline announced the new initiative stating, “The success of the young people of the City of Providence depends on their ability to be involved in high-quality after-school programs that will enhance their learning and help them grow and develop into the future leaders that our city, state and country need.” The announcement was held at New Urban Arts, a highly acclaimed after-school arts program for Providence youth. Jessie Banks, a student at New Urban Arts, welcomed Mayor Cicilline, representatives from The Wallace Foundation, and other business, education, community and youth leaders.

Nancy Devine, Communities Program Director at The Wallace Foundation, said that the foundation selected Providence because of the exceptionally strong willingness and capacity of a broad spectrum of the city’s leadership to meet the ambitious goals of Learning in Communities. “Together we hope to find and share with other cities across the country new ways to create and sustain high-quality out-of-school time activities that make a difference for kids. We are very excited to work on this important effort with the Mayor and the Providence community.”

Learning in Communities will bring together a cross-section of public and private community leaders to identify innovative approaches and create a business plan for a long-term effort to increase meaningful participation in out-of-school time activities for young people and their families. The nine-month planning process will be led by Mayor Cicilline and other experts in the youth development field. Members of the Executive Committee for Learning in Communities will include Alan Hassenfeld, CEO of Hasbro; Ruth Simmons, President of Brown University; Providence Superintendent Melody Johnson; Peter McWalters, Commissioner of the RI Department of Education; representatives from the governor’s office and other community leaders and youth.

The host agency for the Learning in Communities planning grant is Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, a non-profit children’s policy organization based in Providence. Community Matters, a consulting firm with a strong track record in out-of-school time planning, will serve as Project Manager for the planning process.

Learning in Communities is designed to bring together a cross-section of community leadership to:

  • Redesign a local system for high quality out-of-school time activities that serves young people as customers;
  • Set appropriate standards for high-quality programs and meaningful participation;
  • Use existing resources more effectively to increase participation by children who need them most.
  • Implementation of a possible five-year grant for the initiative will be contingent on the Foundation’s acceptance of the business plan.

Recent studies suggest that high-quality after-school programs are an affordable and effective way to improve attitudes and behavior in school and help students achieve learning goals. In a 2002 report titled Multiple Choices After School, researchers at Public/Private Ventures and Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation found that strong majorities of parents with children in well-run after-school programs saw their children’s school attendance improve, believed they were more confident learners, enjoyed school more, and were safer after school.

Elizabeth Burke Bryant, Executive Director of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, said, “We know that children and youth benefit socially, emotionally, and academically when they have easy access to a wide variety of enriching activities and the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with peers and adults. Learning in Communities is an opportunity for us as well. It provides critical resources to engage the time, talent and best thinking of community leaders to ensure that more children in Providence participate in and benefit from learning activities that are fun, after-school and on weekends.”

Mayor Cicilline said, “As I travel throughout the City and talk to young people, I am more convinced than ever that those who are connected to strong after school programs are thriving and those who are not are searching for good places to be. Learning in Communities will help us fulfill the promise we must make to all of our youth – that we will do everything in our power to help them reach their full potential.”

He concluded by saying, “Learning in Communities will depend on the enthusiastic participation of a diverse array of community leaders. I am pleased to say that many community leaders, including those who are gathered here today, have already agreed to participate with us. Together, we will build new partnerships to move our city ahead as a national leader on out-of-school time. I am so grateful that in selecting Providence, The Wallace Foundation has decided that Providence is a city that is poised for progress.”