Published Online: October 8, 1997

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Time Warner Inc. and the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone recently announced a $1.1 million commitment designed to give more New York City elementary students a safe place to go when the school day ends.

The pledge will enable 19 Harlem-area schools to participate in the "Virtual Y" after-school program, in which trained volunteers, college work-study students, and YMCA staff members work with children in grades 2, 3, and 4 to improve literacy skills.

The Virtual Y program is not related to high-tech computing or Internet surfing, but rather it delivers academic and recreational resources from the YMCA to each of the 66 schools currently being served by the three-hour, extended-day program, said Paula Gavin, the president of the YMCA of Greater New York.

The joint contribution of Time Warner and the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, which is part of a federal initiative that gives tax breaks and financial resources to struggling communities, is the program's largest gift to date.

Virtual Y sponsors, including the New York City board of education and the local United Way affiliate, hope to install the program in 200 underserved public schools in the city by 2000, Ms. Gavin said. When it started as a pilot program last spring, Virtual Y served only 10 sites.

In another after-school alliance, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History is teaming up with the Voyager Expanded Learning Program to help create "a Smithsonian museum right next door" through extended-day and summer programs for elementary students, said Randy Best, the chairman of Voyager, a for-profit educational company based in Dallas.

Smithsonian officials will work with the 3-year-old company to develop various curriculum materials and Internet resources designed to give Voyager students access to museum specimens, such as fossils and ancient artifacts. Students also will have direct access to Smithsonian scientists via the Internet.

"Our scientists have the unique ability to be living and working their research--they can tell stories so passionately," said Cissy Anklam, the director of the natural-partners office at the Museum of Natural History in Washington.

In the first collaborative program, which will be available to school districts starting next summer, students will explore the ice age, Mr. Best said. Voyager contracts with districts to provide in-school, after-school, and summer programs to 30,000 students in 30 states.

--JESSICA L. SANDHAM jsandham@epe.org

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