Student-Centered Programs Help Kids Feel Connected

Home E 50th Anniversary E Student-Centered Programs Help Kids Feel Connected
Article Author: Kathryn Levesque
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Article Date: 03-13-2024
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“I love creating a community in the building and the students are part of that. The After School Program helps our kids to feel connected and that they have a voice.” – Lesley Wilson, JFK Middle School Principal, 2007

The first CES After School/21st Century Learning Programs began in 1999, to serve 7 district middle schools through a three year grant. “The strength of our proposal had to do with the collaboration”, said Paul Stracco, then administrator of special education. In three short years, by 2002, CES had expanded the work to 12 different program sites, serving over 4,000 young people. In each case, CES developed programs in collaboration with the host school. Programs served elementary, middle, or high school students, depending on the location. CES designs and implements the program for each school, and the schools are able to offer a high quality after school or summer program that operates within their school building.  Ultimately, the program feels like their own, and works to achieve the academic and enrichment goals of the host school.

Each program is also designed to integrate and honor student voices, especially in the development of new enrichment activities. Students make suggestions and work with supervising adults to develop new activities. They are fun, but also carefully crafted to provide a balance of academics and social-emotional skills development through student-centered enrichment activities. Thanks to student advocacy just before the pandemic hit, options like Esports and Gamesmithing (tabletop gaming) were added, and translated especially well to serve students attending after school remotely. Each semester’s options may change depending on what the students’ interests are. The resulting student creativity and enthusiasm have been one of the elements of the CES programs that have made them an example statewide of high quality programming.

CES continues to add new locations, now managing 18 different cutting edge after school programs, partnering with schools and districts. As recently as last year, CES partnered with Mahar Regional High School for the planning and implementation of a new high school (grades 7-12) after school program. The Mahar program, like other locations, will support academic goals, but also social emotional skills like leadership, communication skills, and engagement in learning as an intentional part of the design. Creating a trusted community at the school that helps kids stay connected to each other and pursue their passions lays the groundwork for those skills by providing support during both normal, and stressful, times. 

“The program offers what students are willing to do, what they are interested in, what they have passion for, what they dream of doing.”” – Dan Sullivan, Site Coordinator, Greenfield “Green Room”.

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