“That’s a real dead body,” 15-year-old Evann Meyers recalled thinking during a recent trip to a local morgue.

 It wasn’t a typical day in her after-school program at Common Ground High School, but it was memorable. And because of state budget cuts it could soon be a rare adventure.

Markeshia Ricks Photo

After-school STEM/Medical Arts crew: Evann Meyers, Hallena Bolden, Linda Torres. MARKESHIA RICKS PHOTO

Evann, a 15-year-old freshman at Common Ground who wants to become a surgeon, is one of 127 of the high school’s 195 students who participate in after-school programs. Those programs are in danger of losing funding as the state looks for cuts to erase a projected $1.7 billion deficit.

Common Ground’s programs receive funding from the state After-School Grant Program and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program. The school is slated to get $10,000 from United Way of Greater New Haven every year for the next three years to further support after-school programs that focus on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. With those funds, the school’s after-school program budget is $136,000.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s $40.6 billion budget calls for consolidating the State After-School Grant Program, Family Resource Centers, Neighborhood Youth Centers and Young Parents Program into one Student Support Service grant. Then the pool of funding for those programs is to then be cut by half.

That worries Ashton Killilea, who heads up Common Ground’s after-school programs. The school’s per-pupil funding from the state is already several thousand dollars less than what’s spent in New Haven Public Schools.

We don’t have anything like this during the school day,” Killilea said. “Not every kid can take art, but they can stay after school and be part of our Business of Art program. Not every student can take physical education, but they can join our basketball or cycling program. Then there are the after-school writing and math labs, and homework center, which are so important for students who need extra help to do well in class. We are able to give students credit for participating in these programs.

“For students who struggle in the classroom, after-school is a place where they are able to succeed and lead,” she added.

It’s also where they get a hands on opportunity to dissect animals and learn about biology and anatomy and future careers in medicine, or put together a podcast and explore the world around them.

In his 12 years at Common Ground, literature and language arts teacher Keith Lambert has helped guide students through after-school drama club. Now he is helping them build a online station and shows. He said aside from a little guidance and technical assistance, the students develop their own show concepts and produce them.

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