San Francisco Chinatown Draws Youth After School

by Judy Vaughn – 

Every afternoon there is a line of children at the San Francisco Chinatown Community Center’s front door. “That line is better than any sign,” says Corps Officer Major Robin Hu. “It tells the neighborhood that something really good is going on in this building.”

Daily, up to 150 elementary students arrive after school, at the cost of an affordable $45 a month.

What’s happening is a strict, highly organized after-school program. After checking in and hand-washing, the first order of the day is ice cream or a bakery treat. Then, homework for an hour. Next comes an hour of recreation in the gym. On Friday, chapel, then a movie and play time. High school teens, who are paid $6 an hour to serve as counselors, benefit from the leadership program. Students are encouraged to work independently, given a point system for work completed, and some receive prizes at the end of the month. After dinner at home, the children have a free evening.

The gym does not sit idle at other times. St. Mary’s Elementary School uses it two days from 8:30 until 3:00. Wednesday night is reserved for young professionals. Tuesday and Friday nights are for college and high school students–Saturdays for young people from a neighborhood church.

In most of the homes, little or no English is spoken, but parents know English is the key to their children’s future. As the program expands, Majors Robin and Tereasa Hu build relationships with parents as well as their schools.

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