Friday, October 25, 2013

The Power of After School Programs

Spring Ridge Middle School Turns the “Lights On”

My classmate, Whitney Nyman, and I attended the "Lights On” After School Showcase hosted by Spring Ridge Middle School on October 24, 2013; this was an evening to celebrate the work of after school program participants from both Spring Ridge and Lexington Park Elementary. Upon our arrival, we were blown away by the amount of community support that flooded into the library where this celebration was hosted; this was a standing room only event. Parents, family members, friends and teachers all gathered to shed some light on the amazing work that these students are doing after school. 

Performances by the Lexington Park Elementary after school Tennis Club and Step Team left us feeling inspired to take a step out of our comfort zones and try something new; the energy and motivation elicited from these young performers was undeniably contagious. The Spring Ridge after school Step Team and Rhythm Clubs left us both speechless with their captivating performances. Rhythm Club leader, Ms. Bonnie Beavan, reminded the crowd of the academic achievement that her participants must attain in order to keep their spots on the team; her dedication to the students in Rythmn Club left us in admiration as she declared them all a part of her “family.” We ended our evening of celebration by taking a gallery walk through the library to view the work of the students who have been participating in enrichment clubs such as fashion design and artistic expression.

 Franklin Delano Roosevelt once declared that “we cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” His words resonate with the often unseen work that is done in after school programs. The 21st Century Community Learning Program is not just a safe space for students to hang out after school; it is a safe space where students can collaborate to discover their natural gifts and learn to celebrate the diversity that fosters a cohesive community for our area. The efforts of the 21st Century Community Learning After School Program do not get enough recognition and praise in our community; these support systems provided by the staff and volunteers, many of whom are teachers, are what “build our youth for the future.”

 I want to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Jamel Hebb, the after school coordinator at Spring Ridge. His efforts in providing a safe space for learning and self-expression in our community are commendable. We need more people with the passion and drive that he exudes. Under the direction of Mr. Mark Smith, the program, which operates in Lexington Park, GW Carver and Spring Ridge, is spreading a vitality through a group of students who are also often forgotten. My recent time spent in the after school program at Spring Ridge has reminded me of the power of collaboration and creativity in crafting a spirit of resilience and success among our youth.

I would encourage you, where ever you may find yourself reading this from, to take time to explore the after school programs in your local area. It seems that the work that happens after the hours of rigorous academia are often forgotten by local communities. Take the time to see what the youth who participate in these said activities are accomplishing. 21st Century is national grant that spans in communities all across our country; find your local chapter and give them the support that they deserve. 

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