On any given weekday afternoon, you’re likely to find fifth-grader Jahneil Edwards on the first or second floor of the East New York Elementary School of Excellence working on his homework, reading a book, or playing in the gym.
And he won’t be alone. Dozens of other students, ranging from kindergarten through fifth grade, are part of the new afterschool program at the elementary school. “I wasn’t doing too good in reading,” says Jahneil, 10. “At the parent-teacher conference, my teacher told me and my mom that I got a low grade in reading, so my teacher said there was an afterschool program and I should do it. So the next day I went to the office and got the application and signed up. I’m really glad I did because they really help you a lot here.”
Welcome to CHLDC’s newest afterschool program, which ramped up operations this fall along with another new program at P.S. 345 and the Middle School Student Success Center at IS 171. The fledgling program at the campus on the south side of the neighborhood began in November and enrolls 121 students, many of whom like Jahneil have struggled academically.
“I can tell you that it was a major effort in terms of informing teachers and parents about what we were going to do and how it was going to help students, hiring staff and so on, but I can say that in the last two months, we’ve found a home here and a lot of the teachers are already seeing an improvement in some of their kids,” said Finola Burton, director of the program. “It feels good that we’re becoming a staple.”
The program is structured around a learning lab in which children work with CHLDC staff to complete their homework and, depending on their age, read and complete book reports. In addition, teachers work with CHLDC staff to create learning lab folders for students so that they can complete extra work in areas where they are struggling. The students then break for a snack and afterward take part in a range of activities from dance and theater to basketball and floor hockey. The staff also organizes team-building projects such as constructing scale-model volcanoes and a holiday show that drew more than 80 families.
Jahneil, meanwhile, has loved the experience. He can tell that his reading skills have improved, but for him the key is that the program isn’t all school work. “It’s fun. I really like coming here all the time; they make it fun and you get to go to the gym and do other specials. Other kids want to be part of this because they see it can be cool to stay after school.”
We gratefully acknowledge the following for their support of our afterschool programs: NYC Department of Youth and Community Development Beacon Community Centers program, NYC Department of Youth and Community Development Out of School Time program, NYS Education Department 21st Century Community Learning Center program, NYS Office of Children and Family Services Advantage Afterschool Program, NYS Office of Children and Family Services AmeriCorps program, Levitt Foundation, Pinkerton Foundation, and The Afterschool Corporation.