Xposure in The Journal News




A new town-sponsored after-school program will teach students the basics of technology, finance and starting a business - and give them a paycheck to show up.But the plan, which calls for the elimination of an existing homework-help program, has angered at least one school trustee who fears the loss could shortchange some students.

Town officials have agreed to use grant proceeds to partially fund the Xposure Greenburgh After School Program. Officials say the program - which uses technology to teach science and other subjects while providing lessons on money management and life skills - provides an enriched curriculum to help children set career goals and do better in school.
 

Beginning in late October, 120 to 150 students in kindergarten through eighth grade will be able to spend afternoons at the Theodore D. Young Community Center learning about audio and visual technology, budgeting, nutrition and community service. Lessons will cover everything from academics to balancing a checkbook to coming up with ideas for their own businesses. Students will "clock in" daily and draw a salary of $6 to $12 a week based on age and performance. However, three-quarters of that money will go into bank accounts and stock-market investments.
 

"A lot of after-school programs around the country are glorified babysitting programs," said Supervisor Paul Feiner, who planned to go door to door yesterday, encouraging families to participate in the program. "But this is a program that will create future Barack Obamas and Bill Gateses, future leaders."
 

Raymond Thomas, executive director of Xposure Foundation Inc., said the curriculum was an intensive introduction to "real life," in which students are expected to balance school and work responsibilities and establish a strong work ethic. They earn more money if they do jobs well and get promotions, but will be docked pay if they show up late, he said. "This is an opportunity to really get your kids to have real-world knowledge, real-life skills that they are going to need to be successful and to compete," said Thomas, whose organization developed and will run the program.

The first year of Xposure will be funded with $167,550 the town will save by eliminating the current homework program and a matching grant from the Lanza Family Foundation. Families will pay $300 a year per student to participate in the nearly four-hour-a-day program. It is open only to residents of Greenburgh's unincorporated area. Xposure will use its budget to purchase computerized whiteboards and laptops and hire teachers and other workers. The center's existing after-school staff must reapply for jobs.
 

The Greenburgh school district will not be involved in running the program, but many of the students are likely to come from that district.

Cora Carey, a Greenburgh schools trustee, said she was troubled by the elimination of an established after-school homework program, particularly to bring in a curriculum that is less than 2 years old and only in place at a few locations in New York City. She added that, without the guarantee of future grants, taxpayers could end up paying the full cost of a much more expensive program. "It's a win-win situation for Xposure and a fail-fail situation, as far as I'm concerned, for our kids," Carey said.

 

Valerie Whitehead, acting commissioner of the community center, said organizers responded to those concerns when they approved a second track in the Xposure program. For the same fee, parents can enroll their children in a program focused solely on homework help, but those students will not receive the weekly stipend. All students will have access to an after-hours homework help hotline, she said.

 

Carey countered that few people in the working-class community are likely to choose the homework help option because it doesn't include the stipend.

 

To ensure the program works, Feiner said, students' school test scores will be reviewed, and weekly student performance evaluations will be available online.

 

Dwight R. Worley