Hutchison Elementary opened the areas first Boys & Girls Club Tuesday to provide an after-school alternative for at-risk students.
The center held a kick off ceremony Monday with federal, county and local elected officials, business and Fairfax County Public Schools representatives and students.
More than one year ago, the Herndon Police Department applied for a grant through the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force in an effort to offer mentorship to at-risk youth in town. After receiving the grant, the police department learned through conversations with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington that the organization would match the money to start the after-school program at Hutchison Elementary.
The task force also learned that Gary McCollum, vice president Cox Communications, wanted to get involved.
During the Oct. 3 kick-off event, under the direction of McCollum, Cox Communications donated $3 million to help with the establishment and promotion of Boys & Girls Clubs in the area, including the Hutchison site. McCollum, a former Boys & Girls Club participant, said his hope was to expand the organization to every school in Fairfax County.
U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10), also gave $25,000 directly to the program. Wolf was instrumental in the establishment of the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force and since has worked to provide funding for gang-prevention and after-school programs.
Because research supports children that are busy in the hours directly after school are less likely to join a gang or get into trouble, the gang task force is pushing more after-school educational activities around the region.
The Boys & Girls Club mission is to provide a "positive place for youth in the Herndon community to learn and grow" through the club's programs.
An off-shoot of the Greater Washington clubs, the Fairfax County Boys & Girls Club branch at Hutchison will be open to children in fourth, fifth and sixth grades. The program will operate through the school year from 3:15 to 6:15 p.m. every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Over time, organizers plan to expand the program to accept more children, run five days a week and possibly offer programs during the summer.