A Maitland PCYC pilot program that began with six Woodberry kids on a Friday night is now in the pipeline to be rolled out across the state.
Friday Night Free was developed by the centre’s training co-ordinator Mat Taylor and senior activity co-ordinator Alanna Harris after reading Maitland’s crime statistics.
“We found that during the late hours of Friday and early hours of Saturday there was extra property damage in relation to young people,” Mr Taylor said.
The pair received a $70,000 grant from the NSW Department of Community Services earlier this year to start the program that runs every Friday of the school term between 4.30pm and 8pm.
Buses pick up children, aged between 12 and 17, from Woodberry and take them back to the PCYC where they get involved in organised and free-time activities from pool, video games, table tennis, soccer and basketball before a healthy dinner.
Mr Taylor said the program harked back to the early days of the PCYC.
“It’s purely about getting kids engaged with a community organisation. We started with six kids, then it jumped to 25 and now we have 55 kids every week.
“My personal goal was 30.”
Mr Taylor said the response to gymnastics training had been overwhelming with several kids taking it up as a sport through the week.
“The response from kids has been really, really positive, they’ve been the best advertisement for the program we could have asked for.
“Even older kids are coming along, initially we thought they’d see the program as more of a childish thing and we were anticipating kids from years’ seven to nine but a lot of older children have turned up.”
Talks are under way to develop the program for PCYC statewide. Meanwhile, Mr Taylor and Ms Harris are in the process submitting a grant application for a new program that targets at-risk teenagers who leave school without employment or have been caught truanting.