Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Keeping the Lights On Afterschool for #Families

October 18, 2016

Contact: Toni A. Smith
       301.357.8433 ext. 7001

Keeping the Lights On Afterschool for Families

Landover, MD – On Thursday, October 20, 2016, at William Paca Elementary School children, parents, businesses and community leaders will come together to celebrate Lights On Afterschool. The national celebration is being held to draw attention to the need for more afterschool programs to serve the millions of children nationwide who are unsupervised and at risk each weekday afternoon. Locally, it is being organized to demonstrate the positive and powerful outcomes of communities working together to support the Prince George’s County Public School System. Lights On Afterschool for Families at William Paca Elementary School will be one of more than 8,000 such events across the nation emphasizing the importance of keeping the lights on and the doors open after school. 

Hosted by community partner In Reach, the Lights On Afterschool for Families celebration will engage students, their families and the community in a number of hands-on and engaging activities to reinforce the importance of afterschool programs. Participants in In Reach’s College and Career Ready 21st Century Community Learning Center’s Afterschool Program and Family Academy will be in for a real treat as the 2016-2017 program kicks off with this event.

Recent data from America After 3PM, the research series on afterschool programs commissioned by the Afterschool Alliance, shows a vast unmet demand for afterschool programs nationwide. In Maryland, 150,112 children participated in an afterschool programs in 2014, only 16%, yet 280,319, or 36%, would be enrolled if a program were available. Further, 87% percent of Maryland’s parents were satisfied with their child’s afterschool program, and 64% percent agreed that afterschool programs give working parents peace of mind for that same year.  More work needs to be done to meet the demand for afterschool programs that keep Maryland’s kids safe, inspire them to learn and help working families. 

In Reach has enjoyed an enriching partnership with the William Paca family for over four years and I am extremely delighted to be able to host this year’s Lights On Afterschool event with such a dynamic principal, Ms. Dorothy Clowers, a cadre of dedicated educators and amazing families. We are all very proud of our afterschool students and families,” said Toni Smith, executive director. There's no reason that learning should stop at 3 p.m., particularly if the alternative is unsupervised time in front of a television set, or any of the dangerous or unhealthy behaviors that can ensnare children in the afternoons. Like so many other afterschool programs around the nation, ours is supported by funding from the Maryland State Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative. Since its creation, it has provided funding to allow hundreds of children to attend afterschool. We need to grow this funding stream for afterschool and summer learning programs.


In Reach’s College and Career Ready 21st Century Community Learning Center opened its doors to William Paca Elementary School students and families in 2015 with a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant from the Maryland State Department of Education. The College and Career Ready 21st CCLC serves almost 200 children, providing homework assistance, tutoring, and classes and clubs in sports, reading, and mathematics, and dozens of other subjects at three Prince George’s County Public Schools. For more information about In Reach, visit www.inreachinc.org.

Lights On Afterschool is organized by the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit public awareness and advocacy organization working to ensure that all children have access to quality afterschool programs. Lights On Afterschool has been celebrated annually since 2000. More information on the Afterschool Alliance, Lights On Afterschool and America After 3PM is available at www.afterschoolalliance.org.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Dedication | Patience | Love - #TeacherAppreciationWeek

Our amazing team at William Paca Elementary School in Landover, MD
In Reach Executive Director Toni Smith (far left) and Principal Dorothy Clowers (third from right)

During Teacher Appreciation Week, In Reach warmly thanks all of the amazing educators it is fortunate to work with in the Prince George's County Public School System to implement its College and Career Ready 21st Century Community Learning Center Program and Youth Ambassadors College Access High School Program. We could not do our work without these awesome educators. They are an intricate part of our existence and make our work possible.

This week, we recognize our educators for their

Dedication - most people do not understand the level of dedication it takes to manage a classroom with twenty or more personalities, learn each personality, teach each unique child, give assignments, grade them, complete assessments, talk to parents and so much more and this is all in one day!

Patience - with so much on their plate every day including working with partners like In Reach, usually after an already long day, we are thankful for their patience. 

Love - there is no way they could do all that they do without love. Although working with children can be very fulfilling, only love for them could truly sustain the amount of energy required to perform each day. We know this from experience.

Today, we recognize and thank each and everyone of our amazing and awesome educators.

William Paca Elementary School
Alma Ardita
Denise Bishop-Edwards
Novilen Bendebel Capadngan
Lisa-Michele Dunmore
Lekitta Epps
Renee Mahomed-Washington
Claribel Mendoza
Aileen Montillano
Florence Moreno
Teixeira Reynolds
Janet Rivera
Beverly Wilborn-Butler

Carrollton Elementary School
Ernesa Bess
Eboney Brisker
Tiffany Dupree
Rebecca Harrison
Edwin Ibias
Alisa Kove
Karen Mack
Teresa Trozzo

Kenmoor Middle School
Randi Coward
Jasmine Davis
Jeffrey Garcia
Beverly Neal 
Elizabeth Robinson
Maya Webb

Parkdale High School
Erica Bullock
Shayne Swift
Melvin Twine

Monday, May 2, 2016

To Be Beautiful Means to Be Yourself - Children's #MentalHealth Matters!

May 1 – 7, 2016, marks the annual celebration of Children’s Mental Health Matters! Campaign Week. In Reach, Inc., has joined the Children’s Mental Health Matters! Campaign - a collaboration of the Mental Health Association of Maryland (MHAMD) and the Maryland Coalition of Families (MCF) with support from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Behavioral Health Administration - to celebrate!

The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness about the importance of children’s mental health. According to Harvard University’s Center of the Developing Child, the foundation for positive mental health begins taking shape in the earliest years. Experiences in the first 3 years of life, from relationships with parents, caregivers, and teachers can significantly impact a child’s developing brain. Negative experiences during critical developmental years can have lifelong implications such as hindering a child’s capacity for learning and ability to relate to others. Many costly problems, ranging from the failure to complete high school to incarceration, could be dramatically reduced if attention were paid to improving children’s environments of relationships and experiences early in life.

Each year, the network of nearly 250 partners and schools throughout the state celebrates Children’s Mental Health Matters! with over a week of events, workshops, media, outreach and other awareness raising activities. National Children's Mental Health Awareness Week is geared toward raising awareness to the issues and causes integral to the children's mental health field in each of the communities across the country. 

To raise awareness and create dialogue about emotions and mental wellness among students, families, and educators, In Reach will host a family movie night at partner William Paca Elementary School in Landover, Maryland where it will screen the Disney film Inside Out. Students in In Reach's program at Kenmoor Middle School will view the movie and complete the Walk in My Shoes activity for the 4th Annual Anti-Stigma Art Project.  

For more information and resources for addressing children’s mental health, visit http://www.ChildrensMentalHealthMatters.org

Monday, April 25, 2016


In Reach, Inc. 
Celebrates the Heart of Afterschool Programs During the First Ever
April 25-29, 2016

Prince George’s County, MD, April 25, 2016In Reach, Inc., is joining with the National AfterSchool Association (NAA) to celebrate the professionals that are at the heart of afterschool programs during the first ever “Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week” April 25-29, 2016.

“We believe Afterschool professionals make a difference in the life of a child,” said Executive Director Toni Smith “We encourage everyone to join us this week in thanking the afterschool professionals in their lives.”

Why is it important to recognize Afterschool Professionals?
An estimated 10.2 million children participate in afterschool programs each year. Today, afterschool programs are viewed as much more than just childcare. They are widely credited as the way to enhance education in STEM, literacy, the arts, social and emotional learning, health and wellness, and more. With that demand comes increased responsibility on the estimated 850,000 of professionals who are making a difference in the lives of our children.

What is Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week?
Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week is a joint effort of community partners, afterschool programs, youth and child care workers, and individuals who have committed to dedicating time to recognize and appreciate those who work with youth during out-of-school hours. The week is marked by celebrations and public relations efforts to encourage people to thank afterschool professionals serving children in programs and organizations across the nation.

Who is an Afterschool Professional?
An Afterschool Professional is someone who works with children and youth in diverse school and community-based settings to provide a wide variety of extended learning opportunities and care during out-of-school hours. Currently, there is an estimated 850,000 afterschool professionals in the US.

How can I thank an Afterschool Professional?
--Declare on social media: “I believe Afterschool professionals make a difference in the life of a child. #heartofafterschool”
--Give a hand-written card from you and/or your child to the afterschool professional in your life.
--Send an email to an afterschool professional’s supervisor describing why that person is appreciated.
--Make treats for the staff at your afterschool program.

When was Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week introduced?
Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week was announced during the NAA Annual Convention in Orlando, Florida, on March 20, 2016, by NAA President & CEO Gina Warner.

For more information about Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week visit: http://www.heartofafterschool.com. For more information about In Reach visit www.inreachinc.org or call 301.357.8433.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Prince George's County's Finest - Excellence Always!

 L-R, Mr. Cliff Barnes, Hon. Ingrid Turner, NHC President Tomeka Bumbry, Program Chair, Crystal Christmas-Watson,
In Reach's Executive Director, Toni Smith, and Mr. Ronnie Gathers

Prince George's County's Finest - Founder and Executive Director Toni A. Smith Receives Award of Excellence in Education

Prince George’s County, Maryland – On Sunday, April 10, 2016, In Reach’s Founder and Executive Director, Ms. Toni A. Smith, received an Award of Excellence in Education from the National Harbor Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., during its Fifth Anniversary Celebration. “How appropriate,” she said “for me to receive my first Award of Excellence from an organization that values family, education and service. It does not get much better than this.” 

Since its inception in December 1999, Ms. Smith has worked tirelessly to build In Reach into a full-fledged community-focused education organization with the primary goal of bringing opportunity in reach to more students in their communities. Starting with forty students attending two partner schools, an elementary afterschool program and an in-school high school program, both programs focused on preparing students for college, work and life. Today, In Reach provides afterschool programs to nearly two hundred students attending Title I schools through its K-8 College and Career Ready 21st Century Community Learning Center and Youth Ambassadors College Access High School Program. 

Having worked in a variety of local and national youth advocacy nonprofit environments, Ms. Smith has over twenty-five years of experience in nonprofit service, management and leadership. She has a long-standing commitment to children's issues and an intimate understanding of the wide array of social justice issues faced by children, youth and families. Professionally, she has found her greatest joy through In Reach where she is able to bring her whole self to improving the lives of children and youth, empowering women and girls to reach their full potential, and promoting the vital work of the nonprofit sector. 

Ms. Smith was delighted to share the spotlight with three other amazing recipients: the Honorable Ingrid M. Turner, Esq., for Civic Excellence; Mr. Ronnie Gathers, director of Parks and Recreation in Prince George’s County, MD for Recreational Excellence; and Mr. Cliff Barnes, member Epstein Becker & Green in the Health Care and Life Sciences Practice for Excellence in Health. However, the true star of the evening was Mr. Brandon C. Welcome, the National Harbor Chapter’s first Scholarship Awardee and student in the Academy of Health Sciences at Prince George’s Community College, graduating this year with a 4.25 GPA and a plan to attend Morehouse College in the fall to major in Political Science.

In Reach, Inc., is a tax exempt 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization designed to prepare students for college, work and life. Founded in 1999, In Reach envisions healthy, productive and prepared young adults in every family. To learn more about In Reach, visit www.inreachinc.org. In Reach is currently celebrating its sixteenth year, #TheBIGSixteen.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

#Money, Money, Money!

April is National Financial Literacy Month, the perfect time for a financial health checkup. For parents, especially, I am certain there are times where it feels like there is simply not enough money to go around. Between buying food, paying bills, and having enough funds for transportation, the money doesn’t seem last too long. Now is a great time to make a change. No matter what your finances look like today, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Here are five tips to get you started on your journey to better financial health:

1. $ave whatever you can, just get started. If you have $10 and can only save $1, then save $1. The important thing is that you begin to form a habit of saving, the more you do it the more you will want to do it and will begin to think about doing it.

2. Educate yourself on financial matters. The more you know, the better you will be able to plan. There is a lot to learn— everything from investing to retirement—so take your time. Look for free classes at your local library and through community organizations including your place of worship.

3. Think twice, purchase once. Do you really need whatever you are about to purchase? Really? 

4. Include everyone in your household. There is strength in numbers. When you work together as a team, everyone moving in the same direction, you are more likely to be successful. This includes the children too. 

5. Don’t compare yourself to others. We must all run our own race. Don’t let what others are doing with their money determine your course. Stay focused on your plan. 

For a full checkup, visit www.mymoney.gov to learn more about the five building blocks for managing and growing your money.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Pick Up a Book and #Read with a Child

Each year on March 2, we celebrate National Read Across America Day (Dr. Seuss’ birthday) with the goal of encouraging children to read for enjoyment and providing parents and families with the tools to help them do so.

Reading is at the core of learning and children who do more of it tend to be more successful in school. According to the International Reading Association, seven out of eight students with reading problems in first grade continue to struggle with reading in 9th grade. They get better but never catch up. Students reading on grade level read twice as much outside of school (thirty minutes a day), and students reading two grade levels above, read for a full hour a day outside of school on average.1

Parents play an extremely important role in encouraging and supporting their child in learning to read and continuously helping him/her strengthen his/her skills. Here are some tips supporting your child in becoming an awesome reader:

1.  Stay engaged with your child's teachers to keep up with what’s going on in their classrooms. Ask teachers how you can make your child’s learning skills stronger.

2.  Use the Library - your local public library is a wonderful place to start and continue your families reading journey. There are so many amazing resources onsite and online for parents/family members to sign up for, free, as well computers available at each location to use for job search, typing resumes and much more. Don’t have a library card? Now is an excellent time to get one for everyone in the household.

3.  Subscribe to a Reading Rockets Growing Readers Newsletter for ongoing information and monthly tip sheets (available in English and Spanish) on raising strong readers and writers,  http://www.readingrockets.org/newsletters/extras.

1. The Future of Children (2012). Literacy Challenges for the Twenty-First Century, VOLUME 22, NUMBER 2, FALL 2012. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Call to Action - For Immediate Release

Contact: Toni Smith, 301.357.8433 ext. 7001

A Set-up for Failure: The Disbursement of 21st Century Community Learning Centers funds in the State of Maryland 

As an organization that raises awareness about the issues that affect children, youth and families, this is certainly one of them.

In July 2015, In Reach applied for a 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) grant through the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) and was awarded the competitive grant effective September 1, 2015. We were elated to receive our congratulatory letter. Imagine our dismay and shock over six months later that we still have not received one drop of funding and when contacting MSDE, their reply is simply "we are working on it" and funds will be released "immediately".

Several weeks have passed and nothing has been received.

In Reach, like many of the other 21st CCLC grantees, work with some of the most underserved and at-risk children and families and being located in Prince George’s County where funding is already scarce has made this a very difficult experience. It should never take this long for an agency to disburse funds. This would be an unacceptable practice in any other business structure. Why is it that an agency that has been disbursing 21st CCLC funds for years, still lacks the ability to execute funding in a timely and efficient manner?

The implementation of an afterschool program does not happen in one day. It takes at least four weeks to get a program up and running and that's with everything in place so not receiving funding in a timely manner sets organizations up for failure. With an understanding that the grant is retroactive to its start date of September 1st, In Reach decided to move forward with implementing its K-8 College and Career Ready 21st CCLC afterschool programming at three schools with the goal of operating for the proposed seven months. Expecting some type of delay, we could not have imagined that it would take over six months to receive funding for the almost 200 students that we serve, their families, our afterschool teachers, and staff.

This is unacceptable. We need funds to be released now! 21st CCLC grantees have invested everything into their programs and many, like In Reach, will not be able to continue serving children who need afterschool programs the most. This is an atrocity and an injustice. We have been set up to fail.


In Reach, Inc., is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization that prepares students for college, work and life. In addition to providing direct services, we raise awareness about the issues that affect children, youth and families.

The Maryland State Department of Education 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant Program is managed by the Office of Extended Learning.