PROVIDENCE -- To hear Elvis Pena talk, after-school programs made him stronger in body and in spirit.
"Wrestling trained my body and taught me to keep going even when I knew the odds were against me," he told 300 people at Perry Middle School yesterday. "Debate taught me that to change someone's perspective is to change the world. And break-dancing. . . . well let's just say that you can't succeed in everything."
Pena, the student government president at E3, was one of several teenagers to speak about the importance of after-school programs at yesterday's kick off of the Providence School Alliance's After Zones program.
Mayor David N. Cicilline and the alliance announced the creation of After Zones in five neighborhoods. Rather than spend money creating new programs, the After Zones will connect programs run by schools, libraries, city recreation centers and nonprofit groups with the hope that together, they can expand on what already exists.
The neighborhood hubs will be located in the lower South Side, the North End/East Side, Olneyville, Smith Hill and the upper South Side. Each hub will receive $400,000 over three years to pay for a full-time coordinator, transportation, public relations and technology.
The money will also be used to train staff, conduct a program evaluation and create a Web-based method of tracking student participation.
Funding for the After School Alliance, part of the nonprofit Business Education Roundtable, comes from a $5-million grant from the Wallace Foundation and $1 million from Bank of America. The Nellie Mae Education Foundation donated $100,000 to help get the hubs off the ground.