BERLIN, VT -- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont recently announced it will accept applications until Dec. 16 from schools interested in offering the 2012 season of the Velocity all-boys after-school program.
Velocity is a unique program designed for middle school boys to: promote fitness, increase self-esteem, encourage healthy and active lifestyles, provide opportunities to try new activities in non-competitive settings, address common issues middle school boys face; and build confidence and communication skills. The program runs on six days after school in the spring, usually once a week.
"The program consists of a variety of different activity modules, each with a corresponding discussion curriculum," says Sean McManus, who coordinates the program at BCBSVT. "We create an environment where boys can challenge themselves both physically and mentally.
"We feel that boys need to be given as many opportunities as possible to be healthy and active. Many middle school boys begin to lose interest in traditional sports and gravitate towards more sedentary activities. Now more than ever, boys struggle with obesity due, in part, to 'plugging in' to video games, TV and the Internet," according to McManus. "Velocity offers them alternatives."
A school must identify a strong male leader who will be a consistent presence for the boys to bring Velocity to its campus,. BCBSVT provides each site with curriculum materials and coordinates with activity experts to visit sites. For example, BCBSVT may send a chef to teach healthy cooking one week and a break-dancing teacher on another week. BCBSVT coordinates collection of program fees and pays stipends to activities experts and mentors. The company also provides tee shirts and water bottles to the boys and their mentors.
"The program costs $60 per participant, but we don't want anyone to be left out due to lack of resources," McManus states. "We will work with schools to determine whether afterschool funds or other grants could cover costs for lower-income participants. In fact, some schools have been able to offer the program completely free of charge," he adds.
"Browns River Middle School (BRMS) in Jericho is in its third year of supporting the Velocity Program," says Greg Martin who serves as a mentor at BRMS and sits on the Velocity advisory board. "Not only has it shown itself to be a sustainable program, but our numbers continue to rise. The boys value the program's mission of coming together to discuss issues of importance specific to their age and gender coupled with vigorous activities aimed at building camaraderie and purpose."
McManus says that BCBSVT will double the number of 2011 Velocity sites in 2012, but that in order to grow responsibly, the company will continue to place a limit on the total number of groups.
"We will look at each application and decide which schools are the best fit for our program," he explains. "Applications must come from schools, but we encourage community members to bring Velocity to the attention of their local school officials if they're interesting in having Velocity in their towns."