By Luci Manning
Students in the After-School All-Stars program at Hobson Middle School are taking a different kind of STEM class: one focused on science, travel, entrepreneurship and math. The students celebrated Lights On Afterschool by planning theoretical trips to places like New Orleans and Puerto Rico, learning the foundations of jazz music, expressing themselves with design and business plans and inspiring each other to change their worlds. The program serves 300 children in four D.C. schools and hopes to bring in an additional 200 children by the end of the year. “It’s a very different space,” Afterschool Ambassador Daniela Grigioni told NBC Washington. “It allows children to develop a different skill set than during the school day.”
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback emphasized the importance of literacy and inspired Reading Roadmap students to reach for the stars last week as part of Lights On Afterschool at a Kansas City Boys & Girls Club. The afterschool program targets children in low-income families who are struggling to read. “You learn to read, it’s going to open gateways for you to go all over the world,” Gov. Brownback told the students. “Maybe someday some of you are going to go to the moon, even…. I want you to work really hard, study hard, I want you to get straight As in school, I know you can do it.” The governor signed a proclamation for Lights On Afterschool Day, according to the Wyandotte Daily.
The Bright Futures afterschool program is encouraging 350 students in nine Wayne-Westland schools to learn and grow their academic, art, leadership and time-management skills. The free program provides a meal, homework help and a variety of enrichment activities for youth. Eighth-grader Jael Smith said the program inspires her to push past her boundaries and plan more for her future. “I’ve learned to go outside my comfort zone,” she told Hometown Life. “I think that’s a really important part of growing up and being successful. You can’t really get anywhere without getting out of your comfort zone.” The program celebrated Lights On Afterschool last week with stations highlighting students’ achievements in math, art, film making, physical activities and science.
Nearly a thousand students from 23 area YMCA sites participated in a 1K run last week to highlight the importance of afterschool programs. The YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties has held the annual Lights On Afterschool run around Island Park for 16 years. "It's watching the kids grow, watching the families really appreciate what you do and all the hard work you put into making sure that the kids have somewhere to go after school and somewhere safe to be," Site Coordinator Kelsi McClaflin told KVRR.
By Luci Manning
The Hawaii Afterschool Alliance will celebrate Lights On Afterschool with a rally at the Hawaii State Capitol Rotunda today. The rally will allow children to show off their talents for art, dance and music and give the community a chance to show their appreciation for afterschool programs. “These places are engaging, the kids are having fun, and they are linked to the school hours, so when they are in the afterschool hours, they can support the work they do during school,” Afterschool Ambassador Paula Adams told Hawaii News Now.
The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) recognized Valley Center-Pauma Unified School District as its featured 2016 Lights On Afterschool district in honor of its exceptional afterschool programs. The district’s programs mix academics with enrichment activities, giving students a chance to try their hand at cooking, weightlifting, STEM subjects and more. “Parents are working, and this provides a safe place, an engaging, positive place for students,” Superintendent Mary Gorsuch told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Students need opportunities in a rural community like ours to have outlets that aren’t available otherwise. For us, this is huge. We want to make sure kids graduate ready to be successful adults.”
Community members celebrated the Mat-Su Borough School District’s Building Bridges afterschool program and highlighted the need for more quality afterschool options at a Lights On Afterschool rally last week. Wasilla Mayor Bert Cottle issued a Proclamation of Support for Afterschool Programming and students gave presentations on digital art design, dance, archery, robotics, outdoor recreation, personal finance and poetry, according to the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman. Building Bridges is a STEM-focused program that provides homework assistance, mentoring, college readiness training and other services.
Students in the Boys & Girls Club in Hernando’s six afterschool sites will perform dramatic productions to celebrate Lights On Afterschool. Each site will put on a different play, and overall some 450 children will participate in tomorrow’s event. The performances are the culmination of a new initiative for club members called Drama Matters, which teaches students the ins and outs of the theater business, Tampa Bay Times reports. Students are not only the actors, but they built the sets, designed costumes and will manage a lot of the production aspects on the night of the performance.
By Luci Manning
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Bellevue expanded their reach with a newly constructed Clubhouse downtown. The 27,000-square-foot Clubhouse, which opened October 6th, includes a gym, tech lab, teaching kitchen, games room, tween/teen space, community room, education center and a preschool, according to the Bellevue Reporter. Currently the dozen Boys & Girls Clubs of Bellevue locations serve about 14,000 youths, but this new building will allow them to expand services. “It will allow us to improve the quality of existing programs and enable the Club to keep pace with the growing population and needs of downtown Bellevue by serving nearly double the kids we currently serve in the old downtown Club,” CEO Kathy Haggart said.
Grammy-winning jazz drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. is spreading his love of music to students in Jacksonville’s Riverside and Brooklyn communities through his nonprofit Don’t Miss a Beat. The organization runs afterschool tutoring, a summer camp and music programs out of two community centers in town, aiming to blend art, academic achievement and civic engagement. “He gives us advice about life,” 13-year-old Treston Lawson told the Florida Time- Union. “He gets us pumped up when we are down. He gives us hope.” Fourteen students in the program will perform a Whitney Houston number at the TEDxJacksonville conference on October 22nd.
A nonprofit is helping young people learn how to manage their paychecks, handle student loans and keep financial obstacles from derailing their lives. Moneythink partners high school students with college mentors on 30 college campuses to help develop financial literacy, especially among low-income students. The teens learn how to choose a bank, use their credit cards safely and wisely and avoid basic financial problems. “If we can prevent a lot of these mistakes in the first place, then on the whole we can create a society that’s better off,” Moneythink CEO Ted Gonder told Youth Today.
MidAmerica Industrial Park will put more than $1 million towards improving STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in five Tulsa school districts. Schools will be able to use the money to build and improve STEM centers, whether it is by refurbishing already existing computer labs or building all-new centers to deliver tech-focused afterschool programs and in-school lessons. “Ultimately, our goal is to create a pipeline of highly trained workers who possess the skills, attitudes and characteristics needed by our employers,” Chief Administrative Officer David Stewart told the Tulsa World. The investment will provide at least five years of maintenance costs for the labs, as well as infrastructure and curriculum.
By Luci Manning
Fifth-grade teacher Shannon Ryan and her Lavaland Elementary afterschool gardening club transformed a trash-strewn field into a tidy community garden. Students in the club rake and weed the garden, plant and set up new beds and pick their own fresh produce. Depending on the season, students grow everything from tomatoes and peaches to squash and kale. “They see where food comes from and how to make it themselves without the processed chemicals – they enjoy that a lot,” Ryan told the Albuquerque Journal. “They can take the skills and translate it at home to provide for their own families.”
Students in the Hayden-McFadden elementary afterschool program Let’s Move Beyond the Bell and Bristol County Agricultural High School are doing their part to save the monarch butterflies at Buttonwood Park and Zoo the Associated Press reports. The monarchs are dependent on milkweed plants, which the students are planting in special gardens throughout the zoo. The program gives them a chance to work with their hands and learn more about ecology, while also helping to bolster the monarch population, which has declined by 90 percent in the last decade.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has taken the first step in implementing his citywide campaign against violence with a $3 million investment in Becoming A Man (BAM), a mentoring program for middle- and high-school boys. The investment is part of a three-year, $36 million campaign to expand the mentoring program to all 7,200 eighth-, ninth- and tenth-grade boys in Chicago’s 20 most violent neighborhoods. “We know this stuff works,” BAM director A.J. Watson told the Chicago Sun-Times. “When young people have an opportunity to engage with people invested in them who take the time to understand their needs, hopes and dreams, they feel more connected and more empowered.” The program currently serves 2,700 students and so far has increased graduation rates while decreasing crime rates among the young men involved.
The University of California system is hoping to boost its enrollment of low-income and underrepresented minority students through a new partnership with three Boys & Girls Clubs in the state. UC will lead campus visits and provide academic counseling and financial aid advice to club members, many of whom never knew college was an option. The schools will also be making sure students are taking the right classes and standardized tests for UC admission. “We want to give them the sense they can aspire to a UC, and we are prepared to do everything to help them to be ready to be UC eligible,” UC Board of Regents chairwoman Monica Lozano told EdSource.
By Luci Manning
A dozen high school students from the afterschool Stax Music Academy performed a Memphis-inspired show this weekend at the grand opening of the Smithsonian’s new Museum of African American History and Culture. The young musicians said they understood the historical importance of performing for the new museum. “Not only am I representing myself, I’m representing my family, my neighborhood,” 17-year-old singer Brenae Johnson told USA Today. “All of us are knowledgeable of this event and how big it really is.” The festival featured bands playing jazz, R&B, gospel and hip-hop to celebrate African-American musical traditions and their role in the nation’s struggle for justice.
Ten-year-old Oakley King has always loved playing with Legos, so when he heard his school needed more sets before it could start a new afterschool Lego club, he stepped up to the challenge. Using donations from friends, classmates and their families, he was able to buy $600 worth of Legos for the club. According to East Salem Elementary School principal Diane Rose, the club will help students develop math, problem-solving, small-motor and social skills in a creative, playful environment. “It’s so important for kids to play and to share with each other and to come together with ideas,” she told the Roanoke Times. “We want to get back to giving them these opportunities not only in the classroom but after school, too.”
More than 1,000 juvenile arrests in have been averted since 2014 thanks to the Philadelphia Police School Diversion Program. The initiative puts first-time, low-level offenders, many of whom would have been arrested under the former zero-tolerance policy, in a 90-day afterschool program that covers topics like social and emotional competency, drug and alcohol education and anger management. “It’s an opportunity for children and families to see policing in a different way, to see the Department of Human Services in a different way, to see the whole process in a different way,” deputy commissioner and program founder Kevin Bethel told the Philadelphia Inquirer. Each teen in the program also has a case manager who performs home visits.
Two high school seniors have found a way to make the diverse array of afterschool options at their school less overwhelming for incoming students. The teens developed a website, Club Academy, which suggests afterschool clubs for students based on their interests and shows them how to start their own club if the one they want is not yet offered. “We got a lot of emails saying it’s been helpful and made the transition process easier,” one of the teens, Mrinal Singh, told the Cincinnati Enquirer. The site has now grown beyond Cincinnati to schools in Michigan, Connecticut and Texas.
By Luci Manning
After two summers of hosting a successful reading program, St. Louis County Housing Authority executive director Susan Rollins and social worker Kellyn Holliday decided to offer literacy support to students throughout the year at a new afterschool program. Two housing development activity centers now have active and growing libraries where youth can boost their reading skills and take books home to read. The program has even attracted the attention of St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, who was so impressed with students’ improved reading scores he drafted a $20,000 federal block grant for the program. “It is the best kind of investment St. Louis County can make,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Seven students from the Center for Aquatic Sciences’ afterschool program rowed across the Delaware River in a whaleboat last week to bring attention to a new initiative to clean up the watershed. The initiative, River Days, will consist of 40 events over the next six weeks geared toward river cleanup and general environmental education. The center’s afterschool program offers youth aquatic-based activities like kayaking and teaches them the science behind water. “Watching these young people come in today, certainly it’s about the future,” Philadelphia managing director Michael DiBerardinis told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s about their connection to the river, but it’s also about the healthy future of this region and of our planet.”
In 2008, Harvard University started the Ed Portal, an afterschool program pairing Allston-Brighton high schoolers with Harvard student mentors to improve study habits and prepare for their futures. Now, eight years later, the program is sending its first graduate to Harvard. Kevin Yang, who just began his freshman year at the university, is one of hundreds of students to attend the Ed Portal over the years, where he worked with his mentor on school projects and explored possible career options in biomedical engineering or neurobiology. “It was definitely an important support mechanism for me,” Yang told the Boston Globe. “It was a place where I could decompress and figure things out.”
Refugee students from 40 different countries are finding their confidence and self-worth on the soccer field as part of Soccer Without Borders (SWB). Using soccer and afterschool classes in English, art and science, the program aims to help refugee students acclimate to life in the U.S. “All the families that our kids are coming from have made so many sacrifices to have their kids achieve a better life,” SWB Baltimore chapter director Casey Thomas told the New York Times. “We, in turn, definitely prioritize supporting the academic success of our kids.”
By Luci Manning
A robotics club at John F. Kennedy High School has helped three students from difficult backgrounds become the first members of their families to attend a four-year college. Syrian refugee Rasha Alrifae, Bangladeshi immigrant Muhammad Naeem and lifelong Paterson resident Zyheir Williams all found a “second home” in the afterschool club, according to the Bergen County Record. The program helped Alrifae learn English and pushed her to major in biology. Naeem learned to code in three programming languages and pursued computer science classes at a local community college. Williams was inspired to put in hundreds of volunteer hours and eventually won a $5,000 scholarship to attend Rutgers University.
As state budget cuts threaten school arts programs across Ohio, several Oberlin Conservatory students are trying to fill the gap with an afterschool music education program at Langston Middle School. The program provides relief to the school’s dwindling number of music teachers and gives low-income students a chance to learn how to play instruments they may not have access to outside of school. “The goal of the Music Mentors Program is to help public schools in Oberlin negate some of these effects by helping with music classes … and running after school programs for students to expand their musical education,” Oberlin junior and program head Ben Steger told the Oberlin Review.
Nearly 1,700 Boys & Girls Club of Manchester participants will now have a chance to use a special workout room at the Club that’s part of a larger effort to promote healthy lifestyles and stop bullying. Planet Fitness’ new “Mini Judgement Free Zone” is part of the company’s $1.3 million commitment to support an anti-bullying initiative with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and STOMP Out Bullying. The room includes treadmills, a stationary bike, strength training equipment, and is full of motivational posters and messages. “It really is about a bigger movement than just the gym,” Planet Fitness senior vice president of marketing Jessica Correa told the Union Leader. “It’s about creating an afterschool curriculum that will give kids the tools to prevent bullying and spread kindness instead.”
The Mariachi Academy of Music in San Jose is part of a growing trend to bring mariachi music to young students throughout the Bay Area who lack opportunities for music education. The Academy works with school districts and private donors to bring free or low-cost mariachi classes to students in several towns in the area, exposing youths to a culturally rich and easy-to-learn style of music. “Mariachi is such a wonderful introduction,” Tamara Alvarado, executive director of the School of Arts & Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “With mariachi, you can see yourself progress, and be part of a group. That’s what’s cool about mariachi: Everyone is the star.”
By Luci Manning
The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation donated $1 million to the Los Angeles Public Library to expand the free afterschool homework centers that serve LA Unified schools’ 16,000 homeless students. The centers give students access to computers and printers and offer academic assistance. “We know that the hours immediately after school are crucial to the success of many young people,” Library Foundation of Los Angeles president Ken Brecher told the Los Angeles Times. “The generosity of the Broad Foundation helps to make our student zones true safe havens and productive centers for students to do their homework now and in the future.”
About 60 fourth graders at Alia Sanchez International Elementary are learning about the importance of civic engagement through the Lafayette Peer Empowerment Project. Students in the afterschool program learn about how local government operates, then identify problems within their city, state or country and write persuasive essays to officials to encourage them to address these issues. “It’s a really good topic to learn about,” fourth-grader Josue Cordova told the Daily Camera. “It helps our community to encourage kids to help out.” The group recently had a visit from Lafayette Mayor Christine Berg, who explained how the city council and the mayor work with various departments and community organizations to run the city.
Fort Worth city officials, schools, community organizations and businesses are collaborating on a new initiative to improve child literacy, aiming to get all Fort Worth third-graders reading at grade level by 2025. Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said the project will reach students through afterschool and summer programs at schools, libraries and community centers, and will also target young children to make sure they enter kindergarten with the skills they need to succeed. “Every program we touch will have a literacy component,” Price told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Schools can’t do this alone. It’s daunting, but this is a city that very much has a can-do spirit. We’ve got to. There’s too much at stake.”
Every May, a crew of Russell Elementary School students in the Russell Space Center’s afterschool program set off on a 27-hour simulated space mission, but this year’s program was in jeopardy until Atlanta area businesses donated time and supplies to fix the program’s space simulator. Over the course of the school year, student astronauts take off in the “Intrepid” space simulator while their peers run mission control, using complex math and science skills to handle the launch. Program head Chris Laster told the Marietta Daily Journal that the students work with minimal teacher input and use teamwork and problem-solving skills to make sure the astronauts get home safely. After this summer’s improvements and upgrades, the simulator’s roof should last another 25 years.