Check out these Inspiring #AfterschoolNJ Stories!
The EHC 21st CCLC REACH students, families, and staff raised $742 for AtlantiCare No Shave November 2020. Throughout the entire month of November EHC 21st CCLC REACH students, families, and staff raised cancer awareness & funds to directly benefit AtlantiCare’s Treasure the Moment Fund, which assists cancer patients in our community with their expenses.
Through training members of NJSACC, like Tyneisha Gibbs has emphasized the value of working in partnership with local businesses. This has encouraged our program to not only work collaboratively with AtlantiCare, but also be able to provide our students with opportunities to give back.
ASPIRE, the After School Program for Instruction, Recreation & Enrichment at Egg Harbor Township School District, offers comprehensive before- and after-school programs for students in grades K-5. COVID has not taken the wind from our sails, it has just forced us to learn to ride the waves in a different way.
Programming currently includes an enrichment class called “Fantastic Field Trips.” The teacher, Mrs. Chishko, visits local places (social distancing and wearing a mask of course) such as the Library, Funny Farm and Police Department where she streams live with the ASPIRE students and interviews the staff there who answer student questions. Last night she participated in the NASA Watch Party aboard the International Space Station through the Afterschool Alliance.
The District’s afterschool programs serve approximately 350-400 students daily offering both academic and enrichment activities with a STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art and Math) focus. Programming also includes homework help; health, nutrition and fitness activities; culture and the arts; positive youth development activities; organized recreation; hot meals; and summer camp.
One of approximately 8,000 nationwide celebrations of after-school programs organized by Afterschool Alliance, we also host Open Houses for family members/guardians of student participants to see the program in action, and follow along with the children through their enrichment sessions. The ‘Lights On’ afterschool open houses underscore the benefits of after-school programs, including inspiring children to learn, keeping them safe in the hours when juvenile crime peaks, and providing relief for working families
NJSACC provides 21st CCLCs with technical assistance. Most recently, our director Kristen Boyd met with Tyneisha Gibbs from NJSACC to brainstorm and strategize recruitment efforts.
During this pandemic, I did not know if we were going to be successful under the structure of delivering a program that was developed to be in-person. With the move to virtual learning and shifting to an online platform, many questions bombarded my mind and filled my every waking moment as I tried to develop a creative solution for this new normal. I knew that if we were going to reach our students in performing the mission and vision of our program and school district, we would have to open our minds to a whole new way of thinking. The learning challenges all of our student’s face have been exacerbated by the pandemic, and I realized that they wouldn’t go away when our virtual classes started. If we were going to be successful in our efforts, it was vital that we give our students room to find and share their voices during this trying time. The students in our program needed to know that they are valued and that what they are learning in a virtual environment was just as important as in-person instruction. As one educator stated, “We need to continue helping them to build ethical reasoning, argumentation skills and enhancing the way they communicate their own narratives of who they are.” As educators, we tell our students that they are important, but the question is, do we allow them to express their importance?
With that in mind, I challenged my staff to dig deeper and challenge our students to do something extraordinary. I thought that since we could not go on actual field trips, it might be a good idea for the students to create their own virtual field trips that they could share with others. Under this proposal, the students would create their own trip to any place around the world they would want to visit. I thought this type of “Outside the Box Thinking” would allow the students to rid themselves of the restrictions that normally keep them from creative expression in the in-person classroom. Sometimes students think and feel things that they can’t quite put into words and art is a great tool to allow them to explore topics from different perspectives. By creating this project, the students would have to research it, develop a persuasive presentation, and be creative in developing a google slide show. More importantly, this assignment would strengthen their intrapersonal skills and give them increased ownership of their own learning. It would also help the students develop the habit of revisiting and adjusting their goals and monitor the progress they are making in obtaining their overall goal. Although social and emotional learning is important at times like these when discomfort and pain pervade the lives of our students and
society at large, we have to remember that teaching is a revolutionary act. This assignment taught the students about making their own choices, helped them to develop resilience and overcome the tendency to fail because it nurtured a growth mindset. Most of all, they were able to take ownership over their own learning. Pride in a job well done is a great confidence-builder and this assignment has helped them build their confidence of creativity. This project also enabled the 21st Century Community Learning Program to build on the Roselle Public School’s vision by evoking change and resisting old, antiquated ways that do not serve the common good. After all, the mission of the Roselle Public School District seeks to assist students in finding their creative potential, so they can be prepared for college, work, and life.
I had the privilege of working with NJSACC staff member Ms. Gibbs. She helped me to brain storm in ideas that would help stir the flames of creativity in me, so it can reach my staff, and spill over to our students. She is a great resource to have at available when needed.
Click on the PDFs below and take a virtual trip:
Despite our remote programming status, Middlesex Community School after care students continued their holiday tradition to celebrate the holidays with the seniors at Watchung Terrace, a senior residence facility- albeit in a different capacity this December, due to COVID -19. While it wasn’t the traditional in person visit, replete with caroling, refreshments and and crafts with the residents; the presence of our after care children was still felt.
I worked with the Watchung Terrace Administrator to set up Operation Senior Smiles, soliciting Middlesex Community School care students to craft cards to brighten the holidays for the facility’s 93 residents. Students dropped off their cards in a bin set up at Von E. Mauger Middle School. The response was amazing! Cards (many with little treats tucked in the envelopes!) were brought to the residents on Dec. 23, along with a large platter of festive homemade cookies. The seniors could not have been more surprised and thankful! Operation Senior Smiles accomplished its mission!
Additionally, the care program children and their parents were gratified to have spread joy to the seniors and maintained the care program’s wonderful relationship with our favorite people at this festive time of year!
NJSACC has continually reinforced that there are always solutions for the challenges that confront its members; and that even small deeds make a big difference in the lives of others. Sometimes all it takes is the desire to succeed and a little creativity!