Fear and frustration are building as lawmakers plan to slash the budget for after-school programs helping at-risk kids.
Prodigy directors say the kids enrolled in their programs may not have a safe place to go if their program is cut back.
“Ever since they’ve been coming here, it’s more this is who I am, and it’s okay to be me,” Katrina Broner said, watching her two kids dance.
Every twirl, jump and spin, exudes confidence, but that’s not all.
“Be healthy in school, and learn a lot, and focus, and to be true to yourself,” the Broner kids said.
That’s what they’re really learning at Prodigy, a prevention and diversion program for at-risk kids. It’s offered throughout West Central Florida, free of charge, serving nearly 2,000 kids in Tampa Bay alone.
“If you think about it a lot of other programs you’re talking $200, $300 a week, for one child, versus coming here and have it be for free because we have a fully funded program,” Katrina said.
But 80% of that state funding is about to get cut. Legislators are set to reduce Prodigy’s budget from $4.6 million down to $1 million. Director Mike Trepper said that would devastate the program.
“Classes would be closed, sites would be shut down, and our staff would lose their jobs,” Trepper said.
Trepper said this program keeps kids safe and out of trouble.
“If young people are not involved with safe, positive, skill-building opportunities, there’s going to be too much time on their hands, and they will get into delinquent type behavior, it’s common sense but it’s also research proven,” he said.
Right now, Prodigy is only fully funded through the end of June.
“It feels awful, it feels like our future is truly in jeopardy,” Katrina said.
Trepper said there is still time to help. You can call your local legislators now and try to influence them to keep Prodigy’s funding. They’re also looking for donors who can keep this program running.
To find out more about Prodigy, click here.