After four years, the city-run AfterSchool program is being heralded as a success.

More than 16,000 children have participated in the dozens of programs offered through Calgary AfterSchool. Those programs range from dance and drama to sports, music and crafts, and are open to children between the ages of six and 16 — plus, they're free.

"It's reduced barriers of cost," said Zoriam Klymochko, coordinator of the AfterSchool program. "People can go up to where Calgary AfterSchool is being offered at a leisure centre or a community association or a school, and be able to participate in a program."

The program was developed between the city and 16 not-for-profit agencies and two businesses that came together to coordinate the activities.

Klymochko says organizers try to help participants develop leadership and friendship skills through the activities, and also want to provide children with a sense of belonging to their community, to Calgary and to Canada.

"I met a couple of people I formed a band with," said 17-year-old Neilinder Saini, who moved to Calgary at the age of 14 and spent two years in Calgary AfterSchool. "The program provided me the space I could spend quality time in."

Calgary AfterSchool costs $3.3 million each year and is paid for by the City of Calgary, the United Way and the provincial government.

The United Way says providing activities and opportunities for at-risk youth may help reduce crime and gang activity.