City Spotlight: Small City Summer Programming in Northfield, Minn.

Recognizing the need for continued learning opportunities throughout the summer months, Northfield, Minnesota’s PRIMEtime collaborative partners will run three main summer programs this year. Created in 2007, the PRIMEtime collaborative is a network of afterschool programs and schools that work to provide a continuum of free, year-round, out-of-school time programs to more than 1,000 children and youth through the rural and increasingly diverse community of Northfield (pop. 20,500). During the school year, Northfield Public Schools and nonprofit organizations operate the six PRIMEtime sites. The Northfield Healthy Community Initiative (HCI), a nonprofit youth coalition, convenes the PRIMEtime collaborative and provides assistance in training, data collection, fundraising, planning, and building public will for OST programming. 

This summer, each of PRIMEtime’s three programs targets a specific age group: Summer PLUS for K-5, Summer BLAST for grades 6 through 8, and the Northfield Union of Youth/The Key for older youth. In 2014, summer programming through PRIMEtime reached over 500 students with enrollment numbers expected to grow this summer. The PLUS and BLAST programs feature a morning academic portion, led by a licensed teacher and afternoon enrichment activities. A youth-run youth center, the Key is open seven days per week from 3:30-10:00 p.m. in downtown Northfield.

The programs collaborate to reduce traditional barriers to access things such as transportation costs and registration processing. To ensure the programs reach all members of the community, Summer PLUS and Summer BLAST providers work together on participant recruitment efforts, including calls and home visits to families to register children. The PRIMEtime programs partner with the local bus company to contract (at a discounted rate) the school buses. This shared transportation system, run during the school year to support afterschool programming, continues throughout the summer to get students to and from the programs. During the school year, over two-thirds of the students participating in PRIMEtime programs receive free or reduced lunch. As the need for nutritious meals continues throughout the summer, PRIMEtime has partnered with the Northfield Public Schools food service to ensure that youth in Summer PLUS and Summer BLAST receive a free lunch daily supported by the Federal Summer Lunch program.

Municipal Support for Summer Programming
Although the PRIMEtime collaborative is independent from the city government, the City of Northfield provides various in-kind services and supports to bolster summer programs throughout the small community. The City's public library brings their mobile library, “Booker the Book Bus,” to the Summer PLUS program for one full morning per week. During this time youth are able to get library cards and check out books while library staff leads storytime.

Additionally, the city makes it possible for the programs to utilize the outdoor city pool at a discounted cost. All youth spend one afternoon per week at the pool during the summer. City law enforcement officers lead safety workshops at the Summer PLUS and Summer BLAST programs, as well as host career exploration panels with all PRIMEtime programs. 

Overall, a key component of the PRIMEtime model is community connectedness; therefore more than 50 community groups lead workshops to promote career exploration in the PRIMEtime summer programs on topics from art to STEM. Previously, individual programs set up times with community members to lead clubs and workshops such as chess club and cooking club or an EMT demonstration. However, now PRIMEtime serves as a bank of these community resources to help streamline the process to ensure that more programs have access to these workshop opportunities and facilitate logistical concerns such as background checks.

This community collaboration has led to strong results for the youth. Based on the results of the Summer 2014 Survey of Academic and Youth Outcomes (SAYO) that PRIMEtime uses to assess program experience, nearly two-thirds of youth reported that by participating in PRIMEtime's summer programming they are able to do things they "have never done before." 

PRIMEtime works to provide these learning opportunities for youth year-round and continues to seek collaboration with community members, city council and city leaders to further increase supports for youth. Even in a town as small as 20,000, afterschool providers have found it extremely beneficial to have an entity such as PRIMEtime coordinate the range of trainings, workshops and partnerships to better serve the children and youth during the summer.

In addition to local individual contributors, PRIMEtime receives generous support from the Youthprise Foundation, Northfield Area United Way, Women In Northfield Giving Support, and the Minnesota Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Center grant).

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