DC awards millions in grants to after-school programs

GALA Hispanic Theatre’s free Paso Nuevo or “next step” program helps up to 80 Hispanic and Black students ages 14 to 19. (Courtesy GALA Hispanic Theatre)

Over 100 nonprofit organizations that offer after-school programs in D.C. will now have some extra money to keep kids engaged.

The District’s Office of Out of School Time Grants and Youth Outcomes announced the 113 groups will receive a combined $16.4 million to help around 15,000 school-age kids.

Among the organizations is the GALA Hispanic Theatre in D.C. Executive director Rebecca Medrano said its free Paso Nuevo or “next step” program helps up to 80 Hispanic and Black students ages 14 to 19.

“It’s a wonderful grant, because it supports this program that enables us to serve so many of these kids who have no place to go after school, who are often not doing well in school, and who are struggling with disadvantages of language and culture and socioeconomic divides, that make it hard for them to succeed in school,” Medrano said.

Medrano said the $95,000 they will receive in grant money will help GALA open its doors to students after class during the school year, Monday through Thursday. Medrano said the students learn storytelling, how to write scripts, and create their own music.

“Most of them are from Central America, where there’s not a big theater tradition, but there is a big music tradition,” Medrano said.

With music a popular activity, Medrano said, some of the grant money has also gone toward buying musical instruments. Also, with a lot of students falling behind in school, the theater uses the money to help them get laptops as well. Medrano said many of them go on to become the first in their families to go to college and also leave the program with skills that can get them work.

“They shadow technicians such as lighting and sound and sound engineering and set building, all of which is part of the actual production,” Medrano said.

Amala Lives has been helping students in the Kenilworth Parkside community in Ward 7 since 2008. (Courtesy Amala Lives)

Another recipient of grant money is Amala Lives, an organization that has been helping students in the Kenilworth Parkside community in Ward 7 since 2013.

“We’re just super excited,” said founder and executive director Brandy Forte.

The organization uses the money to offer after-school tutoring, as well as music, theater and dance programs that help children — many of whom have experienced gun violence in their families.

“We are offering more of a therapeutic response to the trauma,” Forte said. “That’s why we’ve engaged with the art therapy, with the writing prompts, with journaling, with music.”


The roughly $50,000 that the organization will receive will help pay for instructors, activities and snacks, among other expenses, Forte said.

Speaking on the awarding of the grants, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bower said the money helps students who need and deserve access to high-quality and engaging programming before and after school and on the weekends.

“These organizations are working with our schools to ensure all students have pathways to success and opportunities to explore and cultivate their interests and talents, and we encourage families to reach out if they need help finding a program,” Bowser said.

Learn more about the programs supported by the grants with the Learn24 Program Finder.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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