I began working with the afterschool program at Cromwell Center in September of 2006 when I was hired full-time by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. My first day on the job I found out that I’d be the afterschool coordinator. And it’s been incredibly rewarding – personally, professionally and educationally.
I’m a single dad who left college 13 years ago, when I got custody of my son. When I started at The Center for After-School Excellence at TASC (The After-School Corporation), I had been trying to get back to school for years, but I couldn’t work it out financially. The Center gave me a college scholarship and provided me with the support I needed to continue my education.
I was able to apply what I was learning in my classes right away to my work in the afterschool program. There were a number of kids in my program with behavioral and emotional issues, diagnosed and undiagnosed, and I was able to understand their behavior and modify my approach to help them. I also was able to give their parents suggestions to keep them on track with homework and behavior.
The first part of our program every day is doing homework. I would sit with the kids while they were doing their homework and I would do my own homework. I even had kids offering to help “Mr. Jeff” get his homework done. One of the things I am most proud of is that we extended our afterschool program for an hour to help seven or eight kids who had trouble passing their State reading tests. These kids would not be promoted to the next grade if they did not achieve a passing grade on the tests. My staff and I worked with them on their reading, and we partnered with our local library to assist them, and every one of them was promoted.
Originally, my goal was to get my degree and teach, but now I’m starting to think I can do much more good by staying in afterschool. Through my college courses in education I see how focused teachers have to be on the curriculum and the academic goals. In afterschool, I feel like I can work with kids on a broader range of experiences – socially, recreationally through sports and games, through their passions.
Working two jobs and attending college this past year has been pretty tough. There were a lot of long, sleepless nights working on papers, studying for tests. But it’s worth it when I think of my own children and the children in my program, and how important it is to be an example of what is right in our world. They get so many of the wrong messages about how they should speak to people, how to act and what it means to grow up. We give them a place where they can come and be kids, and be safe. We may not have all the right answers but I think we have the right message, and we are living examples of that message.